MOUNT VERNON — Downtown Mount Vernon will be the center of the Relay for Life walk this Friday, June 17.
This year’s event will be held from 6 p.m. to midnight at the Mount Vernon Public Square according to Courtney Ross, the American Cancer Society’s Knox County staff partner. The change in duration — past events used to be 12 hours or longer — Ross explained, is an effort to reflect the community’s needs and to increase community engagement in the event. Jody Rutter, who has served on Relay for Life of Knox County event leadership team for more than a decade, said that in past surveys, Relay for Life participants had expressed that a shorter event would fit better in to their busy schedules and make them more able to participate. This prompted the leadership team to make the change.
The move to the square was done in an effort to improve visibility in the event and to make it something that more people could get involved with, Rutter explained. Because the square does have an incline, Rutter noted, there will be an alternate path through the center of the square that will cut off some of the incline difficulty for the survivor lap and as an option for walkers throughout the event. She explained that, traditionally, the goal was to always have someone walking during the event. She said that the leadership team has changed their mentality slightly to focus more on increasing community involvement by creating a festival atmosphere and to put the focus on raising money for the American Cancer Society’s mission to end cancer.
In addition to making the event more accessible to the public, Ross hopes that the move to the square will also be able to incorporate more local businesses. Ross noted that many of the businesses in the spokes of the square were contacted and will be open for patrons Friday evening and others are making donations to the relay for life event from sales. Aesthetics Spa, Rutter said, will be donating 10 percent of their sales from this week. There are also several businesses serving as local sponsors including Ariel, Knox Community Hospital, CES Credit Union, First Knox National Bank and Siemens. Some sponsors are also sending teams to participate in the walk.
While organizers hope to create more of a festival atmosphere at this year’s event with entertainment from a DJ, food trucks and children’s activities, classic Relay for Life events such as the hula hoop contest and cheeseball game as well as more serious events including the survivor reception from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Grand Hotel ballroom and the survivor lap will still be part of the event. Registration for the survivors reception and lap begins at 4 p.m. at the Grand Hotel. There will also be a silent auction which will run from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Rutter noted that participants will not have to be present at 9:30 p.m. to receive their items. The luminaria will also be included in the event at 10 p.m. and is a ceremony in which bags that have been purchased to honor or remember a loved one who fought cancer or a caregiver are lit up around the square. Bags are currently available for purchase online at www.RelayForLife.org/KnoxCo and can be purchased at the event until 8:30 p.m.
The closing ceremony will be held at 11:45 p.m. at which point the total money raised up to that point of the $190,000 goal will be announced. Rutter explained that those wishing to make a donation can do so through August online. Donations can be made the night of at the information tent will also be available. So far the Knox County Relay for Life Chapter has raised nearly $40,700.
There are currently 24 teams, with 244 participants registered according to Ross who explained that registration is still open for teams and individuals that wish to sign-up for the event. To sign-up to participate, for more information or to make a donation, visit www.RelayForLife.org/KnoxCo or call Ross at the American Cancer Society’s Dublin office at 888-227-6446 ext. 3007. Rutter noted that all are welcome at the event whether they want to participate or just to see what it is all about.