The disease has claimed more lives, but, according to Harlan County's American Cancer Society Relay for Life coordinator Robin Shanks, more progress is being made in the fight to lower victim rates within the nation, as well as southeastern Kentucky.
"Events like the Relay For Life really do help," Shanks said. "We see new people participating every year who have lost a loved one, but there's many of the faithful who return every year for their annual walk around the track. Their spirit is not decreased with time."
This year, the county's Relay For Life will be held at Huff Park beginning at 7 p.m. Registration will take place between 6:15 p.m. and 7 p.m. for the annual cancer survivors recognition portion of the Relay.
Members of the Evarts High School JROTC unit will perform the presentation of colors, and the national anthem will be sung by Dannette Kelly. She will also perform a tribute to American troops at 8:45 p.m.
The luminary ceremony, which has always been one of the event's most emotional times, will get started at 9 p.m. WHLN's Dan Mosley will be the announcer for the ceremony and dignitaries such as state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, state representatives Rick Nelson and Brandon Smith, as well as Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop will be in attendance.
Throughout the night, plenty of games will be provided for children by Harlan County 4-H Director Raymond Cox. Several singers will also take center stage to provide the night's entertainment. Other games include a hat contest and who has the most outrageous PJs.
This year, Shanks said close to 30 teams will be participating in the Relay for Life, and her monetary goal for the night is $25,000. Last year, the event raised $38,000 in Harlan County for cancer research and education.
"Last year's Relay for Life was a tremendous success, thanks to all the caring people in Harlan County," she said. "With the flooding that took place and 9-11, we were able to come together as a community to raise money and hopes in the fight against cancer."
Togetherness will one again be emphasized this year, with the 2003 Relay For Life's theme being "United We Stand." With a nation recovering from war, Shanks said it was important for Harlan Countians to come together not only in the fight against cancer, but in patriotic spirit as well.
Other agencies taking part in this year's Harlan County Relay For Life include Wings Air Rescue, the Harlan County Rescue Squad, Kentucky State Police, the Harlan City Fire Department, Mountain E.M.S., the Harlan County Extension Agency, and Rita Sharp of the Kentucky Tobacco Advocacy.