The American Cancer Society's national signature activity will be held at two locations in the county on June 29 - Harlan's Huff Park and Southeast Community and Technical College's walking track in the Tri-Cities.
The reason for the dual sites, according to American Cancer Society Community representative Marti Harris, is to help more residents of the Tri-Cities to participate.
"But speaking in numbers, Harlan County is not big enough to have two, separate events, so the one in the Tri-Cities will be just an extension of the one that usually takes place at Huff Park," Harris said. "And people in the Tri-Cities are excited about it. They've been working hard and making plans."
Harlan County's Relay For Life will begin on June 29 at 7 p.m. at Huff Park and will stop at 7 a.m. the next morning. The relay will begin again in Cumberland at 9 a.m. and will last until 3 p.m.
A survivors celebration will kick off the relay at 7 p.m. at Huff Park, and again at 9 a.m. the next day in Cumberland. All cancer survivors will receive a T-shirt and medallion and will also be acknowledged for their strength and courageous battle in their fight against cancer. Cancer survivors are invited to share their courage with the community.
"If you need proof that we are making great strides in the fight against cancer, all you need to do is look at the many survivors waking on that track," Harris said. "It is an amazing and inspirational sight."
One of the more touching parts of the relay is the "Lights of Love" illuminary service. Candles will illuminate Huff Park the night of June 29 in a tribute for both cancer survivors and victims.
"Each luminaria represents the love that families and friends have for a survivor who has won the battle against cancer or for the memory of someone no longer with us," said Rosemary Saylor, who helps with the illuminary service. "Hundreds of these beacons of hope will illuminate Huff Park, and it will be a poignant reminder of why we continue this fight."
Luminaria can be ordered for a minimum donation of $5 before the event by mailing in forms printed within the Harlan Daily Enterprise. They can also be purchased at the event.
The latest cancer statistics for Harlan County (1999-2003) as researched by the University of Kentucky's Cancer Registry indicate that 84 people were diagnosed with breast cancer and 20 died; 213 diagnosed with lung cancer, with 174 dying; 113 with colon cancer, killing 53, and 445 other forms of cancer were reported, with 222 deaths. The total number of cancer cases reported in Harlan County between 1999 and 2003 is 855, with a mortality rate of 466.
"Harlan County has high incidents of cancer and mortality rates as shown through research," Harris said. "This should motivate people to get involved, because there is hardly a family in Harlan County who hasn't been touched by cancer. It should motivate them to come out, join the cause and to do their part in the fight against this deadly disease, not only for current patients, but those who will be diagnosed in the future, too."
For more information about the Harlan Relay for Life, contact Harris at (606) 231-0873.