Cancer survivors take the first lap at the 2014 Jefferson County Relay for Life on Friday.
Cancer survivors take the first lap at the 2014 Jefferson County Relay for Life on Friday.
Kayce Goley and her sister Kara Rusk worked to set up their blue-canvas tent late Friday afternoon at Madison Consolidated High School in preparation for the annual Jefferson County Relay For Life.

Hanging on the front of the tent was a sign with a picture of their late father, Mike Rusk, who died of cancer in 2008.

The family, which includes their other sister, Kelly Brown, began attending Relay For Life events with their father in 2007 after he was diagnosed with esophagus cancer.

"He was the one that wanted to start it," Kara Rusk said. "So now we do a fundraiser every year."

Mike Rusk's three daughters and now several grandchildren carry on his legacy year after year by raising funds for cancer research and walking miles around the track at MCHS.

The family now lives in Mooresville, Ind., but holds an annual benefit dance at the Livery Stable and estimates they have raised about $45,000 over the years.

"When we've walked all night long, it's his memory that's kept us going," Kara Rusk said.

The annual Relay For Life is a 24-hour event with family, individual and corporate teams. All proceeds go the American Cancer Society for research.

At the start of the event Friday, dozens of cancer survivors and caretakers were recognized as they lined up on the track for the ceremonial Survivor Lap. Each group represented a different length of time, ranging from new diagnoses to those who have been battling the disease for years.

Brandy Graham, the local Relay organizer from the American Cancer Society, said there were more than 30 teams involved this year.

The Jefferson County Relay For Relay has raised about $40,000 so far this year. The goal is to reach $75,000 before the drive ends in August.

The local Relay event has been held for the past 17 years, grossing more than $1 million for cancer research.

Graham said there will be more than 220 new cases of cancer this year in Jefferson County.

Organizers have coupled more events with the walk this year. Friday night included the Mayor's Movie Night Out, a fish fry and a midnight 5K around the track.