Boone County Relay for Life to start Saturday

Wednesday, June 20, 2012 | 3:31 p.m. CDT; updated 5:06 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 20, 2012

COLUMBIA — Al Buchanan lost his father in 1971, when he was 22 years old. His father, Clifford Buchanan, died of lung cancer.

He said it was not a big surprise for the family.

"He smoked all his life," Buchanan said.

Twenty-four years later, when someone asked Buchanan whether he wanted to participate in Relay for Life in 1995, he didn’t hesitate. Relay for Life is a national fundraiser event held by the American Cancer Society for research and patient services.

"I just wanted to help," Buchanan said. "I lost many friends and my father because of cancer." 

Buchanan has been working for Boone County Relay for Life for the past 17 years, and he has been a member of the steering committee for 10 years.

Three years ago, Buchanan was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He said he was shocked at the time but not afraid.

"I read a lot about that," Buchanan said. "I talked with a lot of survivors. I knew it’s treatable."

He decided to do radioactive seed implants, which proved successful.

On Saturday, Buchanan will be the silent auction chairman for this year’s Boone County Relay for Life from 5 p.m. Saturday to 5 a.m. Sunday at the MU Student Recreation Complex. You can sign up for the event online or register at the event.

Along with fundraising events, cancer survivors will celebrate their lives with families, friends and volunteers. Guest speeches, musical performances and contests will also be part of the festivities.

Earlier this year, the 2012 Relay for Life of Mizzou took place at MU and raised $79,871 on a March weekend. 

As of Wednesday, 655 volunteers and 203 cancer survivors had signed up on the Relay for Life website. The local organization has raised $95,495 since January.

Lori Hauxwell, survivor chairwoman for Boone County Relay for Life, said she expects about 1,000 people to attend this weekend.

Buchanan said the economy has been tight for the past few years, and it's hurt Relay for Life. He hopes the fundraising goes better this year.

Last year, Boone County Relay for Life raised about $160,000, and that’s also the goal for the event this year, said Jessica Ellison, the community manager for development at the Columbia office of the American Cancer Society.

The annual event is about more than raising money, Hauxwell said. "It’s a celebration, a different kind of party."

As usual, there will be a Relay Queen Contest in which men dress like women to raise money, Buchanan said. A Disney character contest on Saturday night will be new this year.

"It goes with our theme, a wonderful life," Buchanan said. "That’s kind of Disney."

Buchanan said he anticipates the event will be emotional for some people.

"There will be a lot of hugging, cheering," he said. "It’s really a bonding thing for survivors and people who care about them."

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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