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Caring about cancer

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Relay for Life fundraising efforts promote participation

By Kacie Goode

Nelson County’s Relay for Life is undergoing a lot of change this year, fueled by a goal of increasing community participation, fundraising and research efforts.

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“We are always looking for more involvement,” whether it be donations or forming a team, said Drew Underwood, community manager for Relay for Life. “It helps show support for survivors.”

That need was emphasized by Underwood and others Monday night, as the local organization gathered for its annual Souper Kickoff fundraising event at Bardstown Middle School.

The crowd was smaller than in years past, but the goal was the same — to raise money and awareness to fight cancer. Teams have been working hard this year to promote a new brand of Relay, one that comes to 2017 with a new date, venue and time.

“Relay for Life has kind of been a cookie cutter event,” Underwood said. “That served us well for really the last 20 years. Unfortunately, that’s just not working anymore. We want to make it an event that is really going to resonate for the community.”

This year’s Relay for Life will take place Saturday, May 13, from noon to midnight at the Nelson County fairgrounds. In the past, the event has been held overnight at Bardstown City Schools. Recognizing survivors will still be a major component of the event, but organizers also hope to gain more interest by appealing to a larger demographic.

“We really need some people that have some creative ideas to help us put a fresh spin on this event,” Underwood said.

Support is needed both for planning the May affair as well as fundraising between now and then.

This year’s Relay currently has 14 teams participating, but more are encouraged as Relay works toward a $100,000 goal.

“The majority of fundraising we do doesn’t come from our event, but from what the teams are doing throughout the year,” Underwood said.

For longtime participants such as Lou Smith, seeing more participation is crucial in keeping the fight alive. Having seen crowds decline at certain events over the years, Smith wants to see more dedicated participation from community members, more awareness and involvement from youth, and better promotion of efforts.

“It’s like the care is not there anymore, but I’m a survivor, and I know for a fact that American Cancer Society is good,” Smith said. “I feel in my heart we are close to a cure.”

Smith has been participating in Relay for Life for decades. She lost a son to cancer. She and her mother are both cancer survivors as well. She walked away Monday night’s winner in the Souper Kickoff, which has teams compete with a soup tasting. Her team, the Michael Smith Memorial, raised $280.50 out of the total $1,564.71 collected for Monday.

The funds bring the local chapter to nearly $5,000 this year, still $95,000 short of this year’s goal.

Underwood said that about 75 percent of every dollar raised would go toward cancer research, while another 17-20 percent goes to support services such as the Hope Lodge or Reach to Recovery, which help patients and families. He said if funds can help find new treatments and vaccines, it will come back to the community in one way or another, even if research is conducted in other parts of the country.

In addition to fundraising, work is also taking place at a legislative level, as organizers and ACS officials plan to approach representatives this year about their research concerns. Topics on the agenda include improving access to comprehensive and barrier-free cessation coverage, prohibiting those under 18 from using tanning devices, and support the formation of a Patient Quality of Life and Palliative Care Advisory Council in Kentucky.

Understanding cancer as something that cannot be tackled by a single effort is important in promoting awareness, education and prevention, Underwood said, which is why Relay will also spotlight a different type of cancer each month through social media, emails and other resources. January is focused on Cervical Cancer awareness.

“When we are talking about cancer, we are talking about really 100 different diseases,” he said. “We really have our work cut out for us.” 

Those interested in learning more about Relay involvement can contact Underwood at (270) 849-5765. The local Relay group typically meets at 6 p.m. the second Monday of the month at the Bardstown Middle School library.

Check below for additional information from the American Cancer Society or visit cancer.org.