Children outlined a field at an elementary school carrying white plastic bags with purple ribbons for an event to bring cancer awareness to Hayward Elementary School students.
"I just wanted to let you know that while you're participating in this event you're not only participating for your school, but you're also helping people in your community," American Cancer Society Relay for Life specialist Heather Gorham of Lincoln said to a group of third-graders. "So by taking part today you guys are going to learn some healthy information to lower your chances of ever getting cancer, as well as just some overall cancer statistics."
The school hosted an ACS Relay Recess program Oct. 9 to teach third-through fifth-grade students about making healthy decisions regarding tobacco, physical activity, nutrition and sun exposure.         
ACS Cancer Action Network volunteer Audrey Graves of Nebraska City helped coordinate the Relay Recess event with Gorham. On Oct. 3, Graves told students her story of being diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer, and Gorham spoke about ACS and Relay for Life.
Students were asked to bring in spare change during the week of Oct. 6 through Oct. 10 to raise money for Otoe County Relay for Life. Third graders cheered as Graves and Gorham announced Oct. 9 that they were in the lead in the "Penny War" competition with a little over $200 in change. The winners of the competition were given prizes - girls were given miniature purple ribbon bracelets and the boys were give miniature purple footballs.
"You are all very awesome supporters because you all helped bring in some money for us to fight cancer this week," Gorham said.
At the beginning of Relay Recess, children were instructed to run to one of four stations to begin their 30-minute informative journey. Then music was played, which alerted students to start walking counterclockwise around the field. When the music stopped, they then sprinted to another station until they had visited all four stations.
"So the big thing today is to have fun, fight cancer, we're gonna fight back and you're gonna learn a little bit along the way," Graves told students.
At the physical activity station, manned by Anne Dutt of Nebraska City, children either jump roped or hula hooped to promote maintaining physical activity in their lives.
Volunteer Kathy Duffy of Nebraska City gave students assorted fruit snacks after asking them to list off healthy snacks at the nutrition station.
"We're teaching students to eat healthy snacks," Duffy said. "Eat fruits and vegetables paired with physical activity to maintain a good weight to prevent cancer."
Students applied sunscreen on themselves at the sun exposure station. Gorham said sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factors of 15 or higher is recommended to aid against harmful ultraviolet rays.
"We're trying to get them in the habit of slapping on some sunscreen," Gorham said. "Even on cloudy days."
Volunteer Patty Madsen of Nebraska City added that people should also wear sunscreen while wearing long-sleeved shirts and hats. Madsen has been a Relay for Life member for 16 years and has had loved ones who've died of cancer.
Volunteers Cheri Becerra Madsen and Joan Dutt, both of Nebraska City, showed students the difference between a non-smoker's lungs compared to a smoker's lungs by first breathing through a straw normally and then plugging their noses while breathing through a straw. Joan Dutt, who is also a radiologic technologist at CHI Health St. Mary's hospital, said the peak ages of when children start smoking are between the ages of 11 and 12. That surprised many students.
At the end of the hands-on event, students returned to classes with plastic bags full of information, coloring pages, stickers, pencils, snacks and more.
Gorham said the Relay Recess at Hayward was the only one held in Otoe County.
"It's an educational opportunity for kids to learn about preventative measures to lower your risk of cancer," she said.
Graves thought the event was a hit with students.
"I think the kids had a ball. I think the kids had fun," she said. "They were educated on different aspects on how to fight against cancer."