In a gesture that couldnt be more fitting, survivors of cancer took the first victory lap in Sundays Relay for Life, which began at 2 p.m. Sunday in the DakotaDome.
The theme of this years event, designed to raise both funds to battle cancer and awareness to better inform the public about steps being taken to treat and someday find a cure for the disease, was "Get Wild for a Cure Vote Cancer Off the Island."
Its a little bit Survivor, and a little bit tropical, said Lindsey Holmquist, a staff member of the American Cancer Society. Right now we have 12 pre-registered teams and teams will continue to come in today, which is great. We typically have around 50 survivors that we honor.
The American Cancer Societys Relay for Life is a team-based event. Many of the teams do most or all of their fundraising before the day of the relay, Holmquist said. Today is the culmination of all of that hard work, and it includes honoring all of the cancer survivors from the area.
The Relay was also a time to remember. Luminarias made of decorated white bags lined the DakotaDomes track. Along with hand-drawn artwork, each luminaria included the name of a cancer survivor or someone who has died of cancer.
Relay for Life started in 1985 in Spokane, WA. Today, the event is held annually worldwide. In Vermillion, the Relay first kicked off 11 years ago with the help of USD students.
In 2007, after the Relay was not held in the community for a couple years, it was brought back with the participation of a group from the University of South Dakota campus.
This year, the Clay County Chapter of the American Cancer Society and the USD Chapter of Colleges Against Cancer geared up to promote awareness, encourage healthy lifestyles, share information and raise funds at Sundays Relay for Life.
Wess Pravecek, one of the community organizers of Vermillions Relay for Life, is thrilled with the participation and input from university students.
This year in particular, I have never seen a better organized, or more dedicated group of students work on this event, she said. We look at this as a great partnership between the community and the university, and the students have just been spectacular this year.
Pravecek also said the Relay wouldnt be possible without the support of USD, which provided the use of the DakotaDome, and the support of local businesses and individuals who made pledges and donated door prizes.
Everybody is here for the right reason, she said, and for whatever reason is also personal to them. The fun part of this is that the community joins in they provide us money, they provide prizes, they provide food for people who will get hungry today.
Church groups are coming in today, as well as 4-H clubs, Pravecek said. Local businesses have teams here today. Its just a way that we can make something available for people to celebrate someones life.