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Cancer survivors take a lap at the 2018 Franklin County Relay for Life. (Photo submitted)

Volunteers and cancer survivors will walk a few laps this weekend at Franklin County's Relay for Life celebration, the American Cancer Society's signature fundraiser. 

The event will be held at Kentucky State University's Exum Center from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday. About 25 teams had registered for the event as of Tuesday. 

Stacey Warnecke, one of the co-chairs of the local Relay for Life event, said if anyone wants to form a team for Saturday, there is still time to register, but the team will not be guaranteed a T-shirt. She said many of the teams are made by co-workers, members of churches or simply friends who want to support a good cause together. 

"That's what Relay is all about," Warnecke said. 

Warnecke chairs Franklin County's Relay for Life event with Bethany Patton, and a committee of volunteers also supports the event. Relay for Life's goal this year is $120,000, the same as last year. Warnecke said the event raised $130,000 last year, the first time it had made its goal in a few years. This year, the group will go into the weekend with over $57,000 already raised. 

Sponsors include Commonwealth Cancer Center, Commonwealth Credit Union, Frankfort Regional Medical Center, Kentucky State University, Wilson Nurseries, First Christian Church and The State Journal. 

Almost everyone either knows someone who has had a form of cancer or has been diagnosed themselves, Warnecke said. Her father died from cancer and her nephew was recently diagnosed with cancer.

Relay for Life is a national effort to fundraise for the American Cancer Society, but the charity helps cancer patients and survivors on a smaller scale, Warnecke said. Some ACS initiatives include free rides for patients to treatments, emotional support, research and more. 

"While it does benefit nationally through research, there are a lot of programs that directly benefit Franklin County," she said. 

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Bags lit for the luminaria ceremony held at the 2018 Franklin County Relay for Life. (Photo submitted)

This will be the first year that Relay for Life will be held at KSU. The event was at Franklin County High School last year. Warnecke said Relay for Life was held at high school before moving to the Frankfort Convention Center for a short time. When the center was demolished in 2017, Relay moved back to the high school. 

Warnecke said that because of unpredictable weather, Relay for Life wanted enough indoor space to host all activities. At last year's event, Relay for Life used the lobby and foyer area inside FCHS, so space was a little limited. Warnecke said Relay for Life organizers have a rough draft of what the layout will look like this year, but some onsite rearranging may be needed Saturday.  

"We are very excited," she said. 

Before Saturday's event, Commonwealth Cancer Center will host a motorcycle ride to raise money for Relay for Life beginning at 2 p.m., with registration starting at noon. Relay for Life will begin at the Exum Center at 5 p.m. The first groups to walk laps will be cancer survivors, caregivers and teams.  During the event, teams will have tables and areas to sell their own activities and products to raise money. Warnecke said teams will have things like meals, bracelets, silent auctions and more.

At about 9:30 p.m., the luminaria ceremony will take place. The ceremony recognizes loved ones who have been lost to cancer. Relay for Life supporters can buy a bag that will be displayed during the ceremony in memory of someone who has passed away and their name will be read during the ceremony. Another way to remember someone is the bloominaria, which allows supporters to buy a plant donated by Wilson Nurseries and take it home after Relay for Life. 

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