Wanted: Big-hearted individuals who are willing to stay up all night to help raise money through the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life.

Plans are already under way for the all-night annual Pittsburg County Relay For Life set for McAlester on May 29-30.

Organizers of the event are looking for Relay For Life teams to help raise money to go toward cancer control during the fund-raising event.

On Wednesday, Relay For Life Chairman Joyce McNally and Survivor Committee Chairman Ingrid Kimbrough of Cancer Care Associates met at the Pittsburg County Health Department to make plans for the upcoming event.

They would like for Relay For Life in McAlester to do as well, or even exceed, the amount raised last year, when $46,000 in donations poured in for the cause.

That marked a substantial increase over the $14,000 raised in 2007.

Although the Relay For Life is held at Sertoma Field, behind Puterbaugh Middle School and near the walking track at Mike Deak Field, this is not the sort of fundraiser where money is raised based on the number of laps a volunteer walks.

Teams can work on raising money both prior to and during the Relay For Life, McNally said. The all-night event, lasting until well past dawn the following day, is symbolic of the journey taken by many cancer survivors, who may at first seem surrounded by darkness but finally see a light at the end of the tunnel, she said.

Since this is the 25th anniversary of the Relay For Life, a lot of the teams are adopting “the 1980s” —music, movies or other things related to the ’80s — as their team theme and that will likely be the theme of the entire McAlester event, McNally said.

Prior to the event on May 25, teams and their captains need to set up their tents on Sertoma Field, McNally said.

Teams need to be set up and have their cars and other vehicles off the field by 5 p.m., 30 minutes before cancer survivors and their families or caretakers start signing up for the event, according to McNally.

At 6 p.m., a special dinner will be held at the site for cancer survivors and their caregivers, McNally said.

The actual Relay For Life activities are set to begin at 7 p.m., when some of the survivors will mark the start of the event by hitting the walking track.

They are not expected to cover the entire mile loop around Mike Deak Field. Kimbrough said a smaller section of the track will be marked off, so none of those who are ill will have to walk for long distances, unless they want to do so.

Meanwhile, fund-raising activities will continue, with many of the teams set up in the tents offering games or other activities in what has been called a carnival-like atmosphere.

Throughout the evening, those involved in the event will be displaying small white paper sacks, each containing a candle. For a small donation, the name of a loved one who has died from cancer will be written onto the bag.

“At 10 p.m., we will have a luminaria ceremony,” when all the candles will be lit, McNally said.

“Once we get them out and get them lit, we turn off the lights at the field,” she said.

During the ceremony, the names on every single luminary that sold will be read aloud, McNally said.

Following the luminary ceremony, many cancer survivors usually leave for the night — but team members typically stay until morning.

“We’ll play games and have other activities every hour,” McNally said.

And so it goes throughout the night.

Around 5:30 a.m., teams start taking down their tents, with plans to be through by 7 a.m.

A few weeks later, volunteers will start planning on next year’s event.

McNally said anyone who is interested can contact her at 423-8583 or at 916-9416.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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