The annual Relay for Life is a ways away, but the local chapter is getting into gear with a kickoff event this week.
The Relay for Life of South Central Oklahoma, formerly the Love County and Carter County branches, are teaming up to stage the event this year. Event Lead Kelly Murphy Fryer said this event gives people a chance to get involved if they haven’t already and learn about the relay, a fundraising walk for the American Cancer Society.
“The gist of it is to bring everybody together, get them motivated, and share information about where the money goes,” Fryer said. “We’re really excited about it.”
The kickoff, she said, is meant to draw in anyone who is interested in participating and may want more information. People can sign up as team captains, individual walkers or teams, and companies can join as corporate sponsors.
“We have several teams that have been doing it for like 20 years, and so it’s kind of the beginning of the fundraising season for them,” Fryer said. “For the next three months, they really hit it hard.”
In Ardmore, money goes toward free wigs for cancer patients through the American Cancer Society and organized rides to the Mercy Cancer Center for patients who need it. Fryer said this year, participants can earmark the funds they raise for some specific causes.
“If someone feels really passionate about pediatric cancer, we now have a program you can… earmark that money to go directly to that type of cancer,” Fryer said. “A lot of times, people are like ‘I want to do something for Leukemia,’ or they may feel passionate about brain cancer. That’s one thing we’re now able to do.”  
The kickoff is also a chance to share information about the latest cancer research and prevention measures, like lung cancer screenings, that people may not have heard of yet.
Fryer said she and Love County’s event lead, Jolyne Saum, decided to join forces after last year’s relay.
“The Love County event lead and I have been really good friends for a long time, and she just said ‘You know, I’m tired.’ And it is a lot of work. I get it. I’ve been doing this now for 16 years in Ardmore. So we decided to do it together.”  
Each county’s survivor’s dinners will remain separate events, but the walks have been combined.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s five people or 500, it’s still the same amount of work to put on the event,” Fryer said.
Fryer said this isn’t the first time the event has expanded. The first event, held in 1994, was called the Relay for Life of Ardmore. Three years later, Ardmore and Healdton teamed up, making it Relay for Life of Carter County.
The kickoff will be from noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21 at the Cotton Patch Cafe in Ardmore.