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Relay for Life set for Friday nite at NBHS

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By Stephen Thomas

 HEBRON ESTATES - Bullitt County residents are familiar with two big event each May.

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One is on the first Saturday, the Kentucky Derby. The other is the annual Relay for Life, hosted by the American Cancer Society, scheduled for May 17 at North Bullitt High School.

For over 20 years local teams of individual families and businesses gather together to donate funds, walk the track and socialize. Most important, they all show up to honor local cancer survivors and their caregivers.

The local event has become as much a celebration for survivors as much as a fundraiser. All survivors and caregivers are invited to the free Survivors' reception, hosted at 5 p.m. in the North Bullitt cafeteria.

Along with the free dinner, survivor and caregiver shirts and sashes will be distributed, along with door prizes.

Other participants are encouraged to arrive early to decorate team booth spaces and turn in team donations if necessary.

The team donations can be made in advance on Bank Night, hosted at the First Federal Savings Bank branch located on N. Buckman Street. This year's Bank Night will take place Monday, May 13, from 4-6 p.m.

Following dinner, survivors meet at the track's main bleachers for a special gathering. From there they enter the track area at 7 p.m. to complete the night's first lap, a victory lap known as the Survivors' Walk.

The second lap is the Caregivers' Walk, completed alongside many of the survivors.

The idea behind the Relay is for each participating team to have at least one member walking the track throughout the night until the final lap at 7 a.m.

Relay Committee member Sherry Lee said 60 teams were committed to this year's event, bringing with them 600 participants.

This year's Relay theme is Team Up for a Cure. Lee said each Relay team was encouraged to design their booth and participants based on a popular sports team.

To keep patrons interested throughout the evening, special events and laps are scheduled throughout.

Last year saw the emergence of an unusual tradition known as the Mr. Relay competition, with male team members dressed as women representing the state that their team's booth adopted.

Relay co-chair Stacey Bernard said this year's participants are encouraged to dress as cheerleaders representing their designated teams in conjunction with the Relay's theme.

Bernard said a raffle was held to see which booths received University of Louisville or Kentucky teams. Other booths were assigned various teams.

"Some schools used their own mascots," she said. "Jewish (Hospital) South picked the Overdale Chiefs to represent, but the Overdale Chiefs picked the New York Yankees."

Texas Roadhouse donated a $250 gift card as a prize for the best booth based on decorations and theme representation. The restaurant also donated 10 $25 gift cards as incentives for Relay participants who stay throughout the entire event.

Among  the popular theme laps is the Poker Lap. According to Lee, walkers receive a playing card at a checkpoint for each lap they complete, up to five cards. The best hand receives a prize.

Along with specialty laps, other contests take place during the evening, including a limbo dance and hula hoop contests. Corn hole games will be available.

One of the newer competitions is the frozen T-shirt contest. Competitors are required to thaw out shirts that are soaked and then frozen. The first contestant to wear their shirt properly wins.

A new event this year is Red Bull Pong. Lee said participants in this game will have an opportunity to win cups filled with the energy drink, in hopes that it will help them make it through the night.

The staple events of each Relay include the Survivors Walk and the Luminaria, scheduled for 11 p.m. The crowd remains silent and the lights are turned off as the names of cancer victims, patients and survivors are called.

"To have a crowd that large be silent, in honor, it's a great mix of respect with a fun, family event." Bernard said.

Luminaries are placed along the track and in the bleachers. They are white bags with candles inside, lit up for the ceremony. Each bag contains an "in honor of" or "in memory of," along with a designated name.

Luminaries are available for purchaseat the Relay. They can also be purchased prior to the event. The cost for each luminary is $5, with proceeds donated to the Relay.

Another fundraiser, started last year, are tiki torches complete with honor plaques. The torches will be lit in the track's infield.

Lee said whoever purchases a torch will be able to take the plaque with them as a keepsake from the event.

Torches cost $50 each. To order torches or luminaries call Cindy Crider, (502) 550-8629.

The 2013 Bullitt County Relay for Life will take place, rain or shine, Friday, May 17, at North Bullitt High School from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Lee reminded that no matter the conditions, the Relay continues as a symbol of the unknown each cancer survivor deals with in their own lives.

"Cancer affects everyone, or it affects someone they know," she said. "We're all, in some way, affected by this disease. We need to stand together to find a cure."

"It really is a great way for people to get together and honor our survivors," Bernard said.