May 3, 2013 11:01:42 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
A little rain won't dampen the spirits of 2013 Oktibbeha County Relay for Life participants.
Forecasted rain prompted organizers to move this year's event indoors at the Starkville Sportsplex. A 5 p.m. reception for cancer survivors will be held in the activities room before the 6 p.m. event begins.
This year's Relay for Life, themed "Up All Night," will feature a variety of games, dancing, music and other activities, while also offering on-site fundraising opportunities. Relay will culminate in numerous poignant moments, including a survivor's lap and luminary service.
"For me, it's all worth it for me watching the survivor's lap every year," said Relay organizer Brian Hawkins. "I see all the people who have beaten the disease or are fighting it now making that lap. For them, it's a triumph."
Event organizers raised more than $106,000 last year, and Hawkins he hopes the bar is raised this year.
"Whether we hit it or not, every bit we get makes an impact," he said. "We're also helping to build a support network within our community for cancer patients to let them know they're not alone and there are resources out there."
Cancer, he said, touches everyone in some way. Hawkins first personal experience with the disease came when his maternal grandfather was diagnosed in the spring of 1986 with liver cancer. Hawkins said he remembers watching his grandfather while his grandmother was briefly away from her Ft. Smith, Ark. home.
"Watching him in that pain was just awful," Hawkins said.
Lung cancer would also claim two of his aunts. Hawkins' other grandfather was also diagnosed with prostate cancer, another aunt was a breast cancer patient and numerous friends suffered with the disease.
"Everybody has a story to tell," he said.
The event is expected to conclude about 2 a.m.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch