The kickoff for the 2011 Relay for Life of Callaway County is being held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 18 at the Callaway Electric Co-op, and event organizers are hoping for a good turnout and a strong start for the annual fundraiser.
"We just want to get the teams riled up and enthusiastic for the relay," said event chair Mindy Noel. "We're encouraging teams to get started early."
The event will feature a series of mini workshops in which participants will learn about the different ceremonies that are a part of the relay, fundraising and how Relay for Life money is used locally.
After a record-breaking year in 2010 with 37 teams raising $53,000, Noel said the Relay for Life Committee's goal for this year is to be even bigger and better with more participants than ever.
"We especially want to increase the number of survivors we have participating, and to educate people on what a survivor is," Noel said. "As soon as a person hears the words "You have cancer," you are a survivor from that moment onward. That's our definition."
She said bringing survivors - both longtime and recent - together is one of her favorite parts of the relay.
"What's wonderful is, by having such a broad group - people who have been survivors for a few days, or a week, or a few months or for years - we can get those new survivors with the experienced survivors to help each other cope with what they're going through."
For those who have considered participating in the relay, but never joined, Noel said the kickoff is the perfect opportunity to learn about the event, how it works and how it benefits local cancer survivors.
"I have an 8-year-old daughter who came to me this year and asked, "Mommy, how do I get started with this?'" she said. "That's all it takes - one question. There are a lot of us out there who would be more than happy to answer that question.
"I would just love to see as many people as can to come out. I would love to see several new teams."
Noel said one of the greatest reasons to support the relay is "you're able to help a lot of people in your community," noting a portion of the proceeds from the relay come directly to fund services in Callaway County.
"It helps with things like Look Good, Feel Better - a program for women that, when their skin changes during treatment, allows them to learn how to put makeup on and feel better about themselves," she said.
Noel said Relay for Life money also is used locally to give gas cards to area residents who have to do a lot of traveling for treatments and to provide cases of Boost to patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation who often have problems keeping down any other sources of nourishment.
Asked what she would say to encourage new participants to get involved with Relay for Life, Noel pointed out that "so many people are touched by cancer and the effects of cancer, and I think it's important to celebrate those who are fighting and support them as they are struggling through that process."