Cancer survivors and supporters will participate in the 2010 Relay for Life event at 10 a.m. Saturday at Riverside Park.
Relay for Life began in Tacoma, Wash. Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon, decided he wanted to show support for all of his patients who had battled cancer. Klatt began to raise money for his local American Cancer Society office by running marathons.
Colleen Holzman, event chair for Ypsilanti’s Relay for Life, said the event came into fruition 25 years ago and now, relays take place all over the country.
“This is our 25th year anniversary and now we have over 5,000 of them throughout the country and we’re in different countries as well,” Holzman said.
The purpose of the relay is to raise money for cancer research and, according to Holzman, the money gathered from the past relays has had a significant effect on improvements in medicines and research for cancer.
“If it wasn’t for the American Cancer Society, we wouldn’t have Tamoxifen, which is a drug that helps with the prevention of breast cancer coming back,” she said. “Several different Pulitzer Prize winners have done work on studies and research through ACS funding.”
The relay is a 24-hour event for a symbolic reason that may not seem apparent.
“It’s 24 hours because that’s our representation that cancer never sleeps and neither will we for 24 hours,” Holzman said.
Several local businesses such as Sam’s Club and even a local school, West Middle School, have gotten involved for the fight against cancer.
Although the event is this Saturday, it is not too late for people to get involved.
Anyone can organize a team or volunteer to help out. The fee to create a team is $150 and it provides participants with a site at the park and covers all registration fees.
All money raised from the event will go toward the American Cancer Society. Last year’s event raised almost $48,000 and this year’s goal is $50,000. Holzman said the ACS is already seeing improvements from last year.
“We’re already up a little over $7,000 cash wise than where we were last year going into the event,” she said. “There are five more teams than last year.”
Participants in this year’s relay can expect to partake in a number of events ranging from the opening ceremony which will involve the survivors taking the first lap around the track to the Luminaria ceremony.
The Luminaria ceremony allows people to decorate and light white bags bearing the names of survivors of cancer, as well as those who lost their struggle.
“That to me is very touching because I’m a survivor,” Holzman sad. “We celebrate those in the midst of fighting cancer or those who made it through treatment and we fight back.
“You can personalize them to someone that is a family member or friend. You can decorate the bags and at dusk we have a couple of quiet laps and the bags are lit, so the track is lit with these Luminaria bags. It’s beautiful and it is so moving.”
The relay might only last for 24 hours, but there are many ways to get involved in the fight against cancer year round.
The ACS has several projects for people to get involved with such as ACS Can.
“ACS Can is another form of making our voices heard through the White House,” Holzman said. “We go through Congress and we fight to make sure cancer survivors have rights, that insurance is recognized and that their funding isn’t cut anymore.”
Those who are interested in forming a team or volunteering should get to the park at 8 a.m. Saturday. The event will end at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Holzman said although some college students have participated in the past, there have not been as many the ACS would like to see.
Those interested in joining the cause can contact Holzman at 734-485-5315.