By Julia S. Smith
Each year, more than 4 million people in over 20 countries raise much needed funds and awareness to save lives from cancer through the Relay for Life movement. The American Cancer Society Relay For Life represents the hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten, that those who face cancer will be supported, and that one day cancer will be eliminated.
The American Cancer Society, Relay For Life is a life-changing event that gives everyone in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease. At Relay, teams of people camp out at a local high school, park, or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. Because cancer never sleeps, Relays are overnight events that last up to 24 hours in length.
Although every Relay For Life is different, there are certain traditions at all Relays, no matter where they are held. These traditions help participants Celebrate, Remember, and Fight Back.
The Survivors Lap
Relay starts with a Survivors Lap – an inspirational time when Survivors are invited to circle the track together and help everyone celebrate the victories we’ve achieved over cancer. The Survivors Lap is an emotional example of how Relay participants are ensuring that more lives are saved each year – like those of each individual on the track. We also recognize and celebrate caregivers at Relay For Life. These individuals give their time, love, and support to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers who face cancer. At Relay, people understand the frustrations and joys of being a caregiver, since the effects of cancer reach far beyond just the person diagnosed.
The Luminaria Ceremony
After dark, we honor people who have been touched by cancer and remember loved ones lost to the disease during the Luminaria Ceremony. Candles are lit inside bags filled with sand, each one bearing the name of a person touched by cancer, and participants often walk a lap in silence. As people take time to remember, those who have walked alongside others battling cancer can grieve and find healing. This is a time that truly highlights the importance of defeating this disease.
Fight Back –
The Fight Back Ceremony
Last, there is a Fight Back Ceremony, where we make a personal commitment to save lives by taking up the fight against cancer. That personal commitment may be to do something as simple as getting a screening test, quitting smoking, or talking to elected officials about cancer. By taking action, people are personally taking steps to save lives and fight back against a disease that takes too much.
Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back are themes that link all Relays events together, but you can learn more about national event standards, recommendations and more about how to structure your Relay’s planning committee using a suggested three-tier approach by connecting to the Relay for Life’s website.
Unable to make it? Dedicate a Luminaria
Light the way around the Relay For Life track in tribute of loved ones whose lives have been touched by cancer. Luminaria bags are transformed and illuminated after dark at every local Relay For Life event. Each luminaria is personalized with a name, photo, message or drawing in memory or honor of a friend or loved one who has been affected by cancer. Luminaria can also be dedicated in support of a Relay participant. Each luminaria candle represents a person. They are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, friends, coworkers, and so many others.
All events offer a classic, white bag. Other luminaria dedication options may include a gold bag and a tribute torch. Once you begin the luminaria donation process, you will see the options available at your event or go to http://www.relayforlife.org/getinvolved/luminaria/index.
Why Do We Fundraise?
All of the funds raised goes toward specific programs in the following categories: Reseach, Hope Lodge, Road to Recovery, Look Good Feel Better and Reach to Recovery Programs for all phases of cancer. Every dollar contributed to this organization makes a difference in someone’s life.
Relay For Life is the signature fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. Locally, the organization will hold events throughout Contra Costa County. To find the Relay in your community, check http://www.RelayForLife.org or you can donate directly if you are unable to participate.
Relay for Life Dates:
El Cerrito – July 26th – Cerrito Vista Park
El Sobrante – June 21 – Murphy Elementary School
Hercules – June 28 – Refugio Valley Park
Pinole – August 9 – Fernandez Park