Despite the somber tone of its name and purpose, the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life will hardly be without joy, fun and high spirits.
"What this is, really, is a celebration," Becky Acord, the event's co-chairperson said. "A celebration of those who have survived cancer, those who will survive it, and the memory of those whose lives it has taken."
If anything, Acord is understating the mood being created for the 12-hour, Friday-through-Saturday-morning event, which will bring more family-friendly attractions to Rumsey Park's baseball diamond than anything this side of Barnum and Bailey.
"This is truly a community event," Acord said. "You can bring toddlers, teenagers, parents, grandparents, and everybody is going to have a good time.
"This year, we have so much new blood, so many fresh ideas and so much enthusiasm," Acord said. "We've got people involved who've never done this before and don't even know what a relay is, but have evolved into just awesome teams."
And those teams, she says, are going far above and beyond the call of duty. In addition to camping overnight in Rumsey Park and walking in the relay for which they are collecting donations in advance from sponsors the 15 individual teams signed up thus far will be working to raise money at the event, too, through activities, raffles, silent auctions, games and food sales.
The team calling themselves the 4-H High Flying Hooves, for example, will set up a pony-car ride and petting zoo complete with baby pig, bunnies, chickens and a llama. The Beach Buddies will further entice young children with a fishing-game booth, sand box, bubbles and balloons. And Heart Felt will offer bean-bag-toss prizes and raffle items.
Silent auctions will be offered by the Mom and Doggers (a complete puppy package, including puppy), SADD (theme-baskets of goodies), and Art of Living (works by local artists).
Shear Squad No. 3025 will be selling taco salads and canned sodas; the Dairy Queen team will be peddling Dilly Bars, beverages and face-painting; The Builders Club will offer hot dogs, a dunk tank and sponge toss game; the Wal-Mart team will hawk cotton candy; participants from My Chiropractor will serve up beef, pork and chicken shishkabobs donated by Cucina Paradiso; and Saturday morning, from 4 to 6 a.m., the Energy West team will cook up biscuits-and-gravy breakfasts.
Meantime, young Colton Beebe will serve as the Relay Police and direct all comers through his toll booth.
"Be sure to bring all of your change," warned Acord, "because Colton's gonna nail you."
Now the American Cancer Society's signature fund-raising activity, the 17-year-old Relay For Life has spread to 3,000 communities in the U.S. and seven foreign countries touching the lives of millions with the hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten, that those who face cancer will be supported, and that one day, cancer will be banished.
Designed to celebrate survivorship and raise money for cancer research and programs, the relay brings together teams of people who take turns walking or running laps, and who keep at least one team member on the track at all times.
"Last year, a lot of people didn't want to participate because they thought it was going to be an athletic event," Acord says. "Really, it's not. All you have to do is be on the track. You can walk, you can golf, you can skip, you can crochet. We don't care."
Those who become team members share a common purpose to support the American Cancer Society's mission by raising a minimum of $100 before the event.
Teams solicit donations, have garage sales, hold bake sales ... and dream up brand new, never-been-tried ideas.
"The imagination our Payson teams have put into this year's event is just amazing," says Acord. "That's why I'm involved.
"The Relay for Life is all about community, and this is a community that really cares."
For more information about the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, call 474-6293 or 472-8222.
To mail in a donation, send checks payable to the American Cancer Society to Becky Acord, Preferred Home Care, 1008 S. Beeline, Payson, AZ 85541.
6 p.m. Cancer Survivors' Kick-Off Lap; silent auction bidding; sales of tickets for numerous raffles begin.
6:30 to 9 p.m. Carnival, with games, prizes and food vendors.
9 p.m. Luminaria ceremony to celebrate cancer survivors."All of the survivors of cancer in Payson are invited but they do need to let us know in advance that they're coming so we'll be prepared to accommodate them."
10:30 p.m. The silent auction will be closed and the winners announced.
Midnight: Pajama parade.
6 a.m. All teams will make one final lap; awards presentation.