Planning under way for Feb. 12 Relay for Life

"After every storm comes a rainbow – curing cancer one color at a time."

That's the motto of this year's annual Relay For Life, which is set to be held from 1-5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 12, at the DakotaDome.

Each year visitors come to raise money for the American Cancer Society, raise awareness for cancer research and show support for loved ones who are battling the disease.

"We're hoping to get a really big increase (in participation) this year, because we've been doing a lot of promoting either on campus or throughout the community, and we've been getting a lot of good feedback for it," said Emilee Davenport, University of South Dakota sophomore and the event's vice president for recruitment.

Interested parties can register either individually or as part of a team. Most teams consist of around 10 to 15 people, Davenport said.

"As a team they come up with a theme for their campsite, where they set up chairs and snacks for the whole day," she said. "Or, they'll all come up dressed in one color. If they're relaying for breast cancer they'll come in all pink, or for ovarian cancer they'll come in all teal just to show what they're relaying for. …

"A lot of times, it's just people's co-workers or their family and friends who decide to get together and do it for someone they care about," she said.

The participants then walk or run around the track at the Dome, raising money as they go.

"They can get people to donate money toward their team, if they want to pledge to run or walk so many miles," Davenport said.

Survivors and their families also will be recognized, she said.

"We invite survivors and their families to come, and we hold a special ceremony for them, and if they want, they can share their stories," she said. "It's really cool to see them talk about it, just knowing the struggles that they've gone through."

Registration for the 2012 Relay For Life will begin at noon the day of the event, but also can be performed beforehand on the Internet.

"It's easier if you sign up online ahead of time," Davenport said. "It just makes the registration process go a little quicker for everybody."

However, you are not required to run or walk to attend Relay For Life – observers are welcome to come watch the proceedings.

"We do have people that will stop by for maybe a couple hours to get a feel for what Relay really is, and see if they want to be more involved in the future," Davenport said.

Davenport's own involvement with Relay For Life began when she was a high school student. She participated last year, as well.

"It was really eye-opening, just to see Vermillion – it seems like such a small community, but you really do have so many people come to support it," she said. "You don't usually expect that from a stereotypical college town. So, I thought it was really cool to see that all come together."

Volunteers now are being sought to help make sure everything does come together. They will be needed to set up for the event beginning at 8 a.m. that day.

"The volunteers are mainly students here at USD, and we form a committee called Colleges Against Cancer. We work to promote Relay, get people involved in breast cancer awareness," Davenport said.

Additionally, they host cancer-related activities throughout the year to help raise money and promote awareness, such as holding "Bowling for Boobs" at Pro's Sports Bar during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Relay is not just a one-day activity for the volunteers, Davenport said.

"We have weekly meetings from usually the end of September through March," she said. "It's all the planning of Relay – you make committees, you decide who's going to be in charge of food and sponsors, and we also work on tabling events at the MUC to get people involved in Relay."

For information about volunteering or to register for the 2012 Relay For Life, visit relay.org/usd.

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