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Relay for Life set for Friday

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6 p.m. at lancaster county memorial stadium

By Reece Murphy

It’s been 27 years since Dr. Gordon Klatt organized a fundraiser in Tacoma, Wash., that called on participants to walk around a stadium track to honor and encourage cancer survivors, remember those who passed on and raise money for the American Cancer Society.
Though the fundraising methods have changed over the years, the spirit of the event lives on – and this Friday, May 3, local teams and the community will come together for the 2013 Lancaster County Relay for Life event.
This year’s event begins at 6 p.m. at the Lancaster County Memorial Stadium. Gates open at 5 p.m.
American Cancer Society Community Manager Samantha Smith said the event includes 55 local teams, which after months of fundraising, are well on their way toward this year’s goal of $190,000.
“We’re really looking forward to having a great turnout for the event,” Smith said. “The teams have been working hard all year and they’re excited about the fundraiser they’ll have out there that night.”
Parking for the event is available on both the home and visitors’ side of the stadium, and shuttle service will run from the Lancaster High School parking lot.
Organizers will provide a special shuttle available for those battling cancer who may be too sick to walk.
The 7 p.m. opening ceremony sets the mood with “a high-energy kickoff” to celebrate survivors and inspire those recently diagnosed by recounting recent accomplishments and progress in the war against cancer.
The survivors lap, at 7:30 p.m., will keep the spirit of encouragement alive by featuring more than 200 cancer survivors who will make a lap around the track in celebration of their victory over the disease.
The Luminaria Ceremony is set for 10 p.m. when Relay for Life supporters will light luminary bags in support of those who are battling the disease and to memorialize those who passed on.
According to organizers, the ceremony is a testimony to the power of a community coming together to help its members work through the grief of cancer and find hope.
The evening’s closing ceremony is scheduled for 11 p.m., a chance for those in attendance to pledge their support in fighting the disease though participation in Relay for Life events over the coming year.
But not all is solemn. In fact, there will be plenty of family-friendly entertainment throughout the evening.
“We have about 40 teams that will have tents out there, and there will be activities for the kids,” Smith said. “There will be bands, and teams will have games going on throughout the evening.
“It’s a great coming together of community support for patients and family of survivors,” she said.
As always, all proceeds from Relay for Life support cancer research and other wellness programs to help those who are battling the disease.
Another significant reason for the event is to raise cancer awareness, something long-time Relay participant and Lancaster Woman’s Club team captain Denise Walker said she’s still learning about.
The team raised $2,330 from an April 20 event called “Putting A Band on Cancer.”
Walker has also led a project at North Elementary School called “The Colors of Cancer,” a ribbon-coloring contest designed to bring awareness to cancer’s many forms and Relay for Life’s efforts.
Walker said the Woman’s Club projects were but one effort of many conducted by county relay teams. Though their fundraising methods may differ, Walker said, all teams are united by one goal.
“I personally think that everybody feels the same way, that they want to make a difference and try and raise money for research,” Walker said.
“For me, I have children, and it would be great for my children and grandchildren to live in a cancer-free world.
“It doesn’t make any difference how old you are or who you are, everyone has been touched by cancer, so people want to be involved,” she said.
And that’s where you can help.
Smith said by attending the event and joining others in a spirit of support and an effort to raise additional money for the American Cancer Society, the community as a whole can join the fight against cancer as well.
“We’re really looking forward to having a great turnout for the event,” Smith said.
“The teams have been working hard all year and they’re excited about the fundraisers they’ll have out there that night.
“I haven’t met a person yet that cancer has not effected in one way or another,” she said. “This is a great way to get out and support the community and be surrounded by people who may be going through the same.”
For more details on Lancaster County Relay for Life, visit www.relayforlife.org/lancastersc.

Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151