Lighting up Relay

By Messenger Staff | Published Wednesday, December 26, 2012

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It’s one of the most inspirational moments at the American Cancer Society Relay For Life.

When the sun goes down, hundreds of luminarias light the way under the stars to remember those lost to cancer, those fighting cancer and those who have fought cancer and won. This ceremony of light symbolizes the hope and perseverance with which we all continue to fight.

Luminaria are those glowing bags that, to the naked eye, appear to be nothing more than paper sacks filled with sand and candles. But upon closer examination, these sacks represent people, each with a name and a story to tell.

Each glowing bag represents our shared vision for a future in which cancer no longer threatens the people we love. When the sun goes down, hundred of luminarias light the way under the stars.


In 1987, Seattle was preparing for their first Relay For Life. They had arranged for lights but discovered at about noon on the day of the event that, for some reason, the lights weren’t going to work. As you can imagine, the committee was fit to be tied.

One of the members suggested lining the track with luminaria bags to enable the participants to see the track as they walked or ran. The committee immediately purchased what they needed to implement the “luminaria light” idea. When they lit the candles in the bags that night, it changed the atmosphere at the track. The soft lighting was conducive to talking about why everyone was there – to fight cancer and honor those who had survived and those who had lost the battle.

The next year, the Relay For Life of Tacoma committee (who had heard about what a beautiful experience the candles had produced) and a few other Relay committees included a luminaria ceremony, honoring cancer survivors and remembering those who had lost the battle. Everyone who took part in the luminaria ceremony was deeply touched. The ceremony grew in popularity and eventually became part of Relay For Life events across the country as a fundraiser.

To light a luminaria for the Relay For Life of Wise County in honor of a loved one who has been touched by cancer, contact Kathy Hughes at (940) 255-2944 or Cost is $5 per bag.

Information courtesy of American Cancer Society

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