Mary Ann Randa, Hays, on Friday evening will participate in the Relay for Life of Ellis County, just as she’s done the past two decades.

“I’ve been relaying for about 19 years. The event has been going on since 1995 in Ellis County,” Randa said. “I lost my mother and brother to cancer, as well as numerous co-workers.”

Rockin’ the Bricks, the 2019 Relay for Life of Ellis County, will raise money for the American Cancer Society, as the relay does each year.

“The relay is their signature event, where they secure the majority of their funding through relays across the country,” Randa said. “We always do it the first Friday in June.”

Friday’s event starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Downtown Hays Pavilion, 10th and Main streets. Besides the walk, there will be free live music featuring local Elvis tribute singer Frank Werth and free tacos as long as they last from the Taco Shop. There is also a silent auction, with donations of 30 items, including a recliner, gift cards, gift baskets and quilts.

“People can come and enjoy the music and the atmosphere,” said Mary Befort, Hays, who with Randa is a member of the local planning committee for the event. “You don’t have to walk.”

In her years participating and as local treasurer for the committee, Randa has seen a lot change about cancer.

“In the 19 years, the treatment has improved so much, that cancer is not necessarily a death sentence now, but treatable, and maybe not curable, but you can still have a quality of life,” she said. “The treatment has improved because of the research available and the research is only available because of the money we raise.”

Besides the relay, the Ellis County fundraisers are holding the Drive for Cancer Golf Tournament on  June 14 at the Hays Municipal Golf Course. They still need teams for that, said Randa.

This year’s goal for the relay and the golf tourney combined is $35,000, with about 80 percent of that coming from the relay, she said.

Each year, though, the number of participants in the relay gets less and less.

“We’re down to about eight teams this year. At one time we had over 45,” Randa said. “Everybody has a cause they’d like to have funded, so we compete for the same donation money.”

This is the first time for live music at the relay, said Befort

“We’re trying to switch it up and do something different to try and get more people there,” she said.

The evening will start with a survivor lap in the street adjacent to and north of the Pavilion and introduction of the participating teams. Anyone is welcome to walk one lap or the whole evening, or not at all, said Befort. The walking path will be lined with luminaries, decorated white paper sacks with a battery-operated candle inside, purchased by family members and friends, and each one bearing a name.

“Luminaries are $10 each and in memory of those who lost their lives to cancer, or in honor of those fighting cancer,” Befort said. They can be purchased in advance or the night of the event.

Committee and family members and friends will light the luminaries at 9:30 p.m. and the names on each of the luminaries will be read.

“Usually there are hundreds of luminaries,” Befort said.

Teams for the 2020 Relay for Life of Ellis County will start forming in January 2020. Sign up is with Befort or Randa or through the website, www.RelayForLife.org/EllisCoKS.

For luminaries, contact Befort at (785) 735-2878, and for other donations or relay team sign up, call Randa at (785) 623-1971.

Besides Taco Shop, 333 W. 8th St., sponsors for the evening are Insurance Planning, 3006 Broadway Ave., and Hays Memorial Chapel, 1906 Pine St.