Each year, several Relay For Life events take place across the world, being staffed and coordinated by volunteers and held in local communities. This year, in an effort to minimize in-person contact during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Perry County Relay for Life board is holding several online activities.
“This year, due to still having COVID restrictions and things like that we wanted to protect our survivors and our volunteers, so we decided to do virtual (events) and a parade,” said Aleah Combs, chair of the Perry County Relay for Life board/planning committee. The group, she said, created an online page on Facebook and has been posting different activities and fundraisers on the page for the community to participate in. The online events began at the end of March and will continue to June 5, said Combs.
National Relay Weekend Spirit Week was May 10-14. During that week, community members and participants of the Relay for Life were encouraged to remember Relay events from previous years, go on a walk, raise some $24, wear their favorite Relay for Life shirt, share a memory from a previous Relay event and prepare for the upcoming Relay for Life Day, June 5.
Next week, from May 24 throughMay 30, there will be a Relay for Life Online Auction. Bidding will start at 8 a.m. on May 24 and end at 7 p.m. on May 30. The highest bidder will win the item(s) they bid on, and winners must pay and pick up their items before June 4. Several local businesses donated items for the auction, and some of the items included are an “I Love Books” hat by Jonathan Beatty, a 10 piece Rest Haven comforter set, a candle from Coal Country Candles, a $500 gift certificate from Lewis Tattoo, a Scentsy car bar clip, a “Family is Forever” photo frame, a Gran and Rosi vintage butter dish with a wooden lid, metal bird cages, gift baskets containing multiple items, a dental cleaning and sports physical at Little Flower Clinic, Plunder jewelry, Red Aspen nails, a $20 credit to Studio Be, wreaths and much more.
Paint Perry Purple will be held from May 28-June 4. During this time, community members are asked and encouraged to decorate their homes, work places, businesses and schools in Relay for Life themed colors and designs.
On June 1, the “Take a Hike, Cancer” is scheduled to be held at the Perry County Park Trails.
Additionally, people can donate $10 at any time before June 4 for a chance to win a $500 tattoo at Death Grip Tattoos. The tattoo shop donated two $500 gift certificates to support the Relay for Life. People interested in entering this activity must be 18 or older. The tattoo winner(s) will be notified by June 5 and the tattoos must be done on Monday, June 7.
In addition to the online events, Combs said the group also plans to have a drive-through parade in June.
“We're also hoping to do a parade on June 5. We're working on that right now,” said Combs. Any community organization, business, groups or individual is welcome to join, she said.
The current plan, Combs said, is for people wanting to participate to meet at Hazard High School between 5-5:30 p.m. on June 5, and the parade will go through town and end at the Perry County Park where Relay for Life is usually held. Participants are encouraged to decorate their vehicles to honor survivors or lost loved ones during the parade. Combs said the group hopes to decorate the Perry County Park with the photos and luminiaria in their traditional fashion.
Having the online events, said Combs, has been very different, but she feels was the safest option. The group, she said, loves Relay and looks forward to it each year, so not being able to do more in-person activities during the pandemic has been hard.
“That's a big day for us, we look forward to it all year long. We all love it,” said Combs. “We're trying really hard. It's very different for us but we didn't want to just not do anything — even if we only raise a couple thousand dollars. We are here and doing the best we can considering the circumstances.”
The money raised from the events, said Combs, will be used to help fund research for a cure to cancer, as well as lessening burdens of treatment.
“Funding is being used for research for the most part. The money goes straight to the American Cancer Society so they divide it between surrounding counties and Perry County. It helps with the cancer centers,” said Combs, adding that the money can also be used for wigs, gas, lodging and anything else a person in treatment may need. “To kind of take some of that burden off of them because they're going through so much already. It's just to be supportive.”
Throughout the pandemic, team numbers have decreased some, said Combs, so the group is hoping to grow and expand.
“We're really interested in growing Relay. We would love to have more teams, more volunteers. With COVID the past two years our teams and volunteers — things happen — and our numbers have went down,” said Combs. The group, she said, is trying to raise awareness online and hopes more people join in supporting their mission. “We love to be able to honor them and support our caregivers. We want to remember the loved ones who were lost.”
If anyone is interested in participating in Relay for Life or learning more about what the group does, they can contact Combs and join the Facebook group, “Perry County Relay for Life 2021 — Virtual Edition.”