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Twelve-hour event raises thousands for cancer research

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By Molly Haines

Twenty-five teams gathered Friday night to launch the 11th annual Relay for Life, which is held each year to celebrate the lives of cancer survivors and in remembrance of its victims.

This year’s event raised $59,000, with over 700 luminaries sold.

The 12-hour event kicked off with a welcome by Mayor David “Milkweed” Wotier, followed by the National Anthem, which was sung by Debra McMillien, the invocation, and a speech by Owen County Judge-Executive Carolyn Keith.

One of the cancer survivors, the Rev. Jesse Bourne, was this year’s guest speaker. Special music was provided by Chris Spurgeon and event recognition was done by Relay for Life Co-Chair Jenni Duncan.

The survivor ceremony began with survivor recognition and a walk-of-fame lap around the track, which was followed by the introduction of teams. After the team introduction, each team strived to keep a member on the track for 12 hours.

As the evening wore on, it was time for the luminary event. The luminary event is a special time during Relay when all activities cease, including walking. The luminaries were placed along the track and lit with candles. The focus of the luminary event is to honor survivors and remember those who lost their lives to cancer.

Wotier, Melody Stafford and Billy O’Banion read the names of those who lost the battle against cancer during the luminary event.

Other events that took place during Relay included a crazy hat lap, a potato sack race, three-on-three basketball, a pajama parade and a Mr. Relay pageant.

This years Mr. Relay pageant winner was Jimmy Emmons with team Itron. Collin Trammel came in second, followed by Logan Lowe in third place.

This year’s tent winner was Owen County Primary school, whose theme was “When You Wish Upon a Cure.” Second place winner was Itron with a “Beverly Hillbillies” theme and third place was the National Junior Honors Society with a “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme.

The participation award was a tie between Shirley Moore, Autumn Hunter and Roxanne Bennett.

Since the beginning of the event in Owen County, Relay for Life has been held at the Owen County High School football field, however, this year’s event was held at the Itron field.

Members of the Relay For Life Committee came before the Owen County Fiscal Court earlier this year in hopes of having the track at Itron field completed on time for Relay. The court voted to complete the track and Kentucky Utilities provided lights to go around the track.

“Considering the change in venue, this year’s Relay was very successful,” Duncan said. “We had very few obstacles that night and I think everything went really well.”

Kim Varner, who was in charge of events during Relay, said this year was her first on the Relay for Life committee.

“It was a busy night for me because I was in charge of events,” Varner said. “I was thrilled to death to be a part of it and I think it was a very successful night.”

Overall, the event was a celebration of life as well as a celebration of hope – the hope for a cure.