For the past couple of weeks, an army of volunteers has been trying to figuratively paint downtown Franklin purple.
They have decorated store windows, put up posters and tied purple ribbons to light poles, signposts and trees. Some supporters are wearing grape-colored T-shirts, and a few plan to paint their faces.
The goal is to promote this year’s Relay for Life in Franklin, part of the annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
The 24-hour event will be Saturday and Sunday on the grounds of Johnson Memorial Hospital on West Jefferson Street. Greenwood’s counterpart was the weekend of May 18 at Central Nine Career Center.
In each case, teams of volunteers take turns walking circuits, so that a member of the team is walking at all times. While they are walking, bands play, movies are shown, and onlookers and teammates encourage the walkers.
For months ahead of time, team members seek individual pledges and gifts and stage fundraisers, with the money going to cancer research and patient support.
The purple push in Franklin was part of an effort to increase the visibility of the event.
“We’re hoping that we bring some more community awareness. We’ve had Relay for Life for many years, but we think there are still a lot of people we haven’t reached yet,” said Erin Napier, chairwoman of the event.
Franklin’s Relay for Life organizers gave the event a revamp last year. They had seen participation drop over the past five years and wanted to ensure it grew in the future. They started by moving to a date in mid-June. Volunteers canvassed the community to get people who had never formed a team involved.
“We want people to ask questions and come out. Once we get them there, we think they’ll stay with it. They just need to see what we’re about,” Napier said.
At the same time, organizers wanted to encourage longtime teams to try new, unique fundraising methods.
Franklin organizers are expecting close to 50 teams this year.
The reasons people participate in the relay vary. Some are cancer survivors, and they will be recognized during a special lap. Others have lost friends or family members to cancer, and those will be honored during a moving luminaria ceremony. Others are there out of a simple desire to help.
For nearly all of those involved, finding a cure for cancer is the ultimate goal.
While Relay for Life clearly is meant to be a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, it’s also an opportunity to get the word out about cancer awareness, prevention and treatment.
And for sure, the fundraiser would be nowhere near the success it is without the legion of volunteers who do the organizing and especially those who make up the teams.
We salute all of those involved in this year’s Relay for Life. You are making a positive difference in the community.
And to everyone else, we suggest you take some time out this weekend and stop by and watch part of the festivities. It would be one more way to thank the volunteers.