GLADSTONE - Cancer survivors and their supporters will have an opportunity to raise awareness and money for cancer research this weekend during the 2013 Relay For Life of Delta County.
The event will begin at 1 p.m. Friday at Marble Athletic Field in Gladstone and will continue until 1 p.m. Saturday. Teams and individuals will walk the track for the majority of the 24-hour event to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.
"The reason we do the 24-hour event is that cancer never sleeps," said Stephanie Swartzendruber, Relay For Life community representative.
The Relay begins with an opening ceremony. This year Congressman Dan Benishek will speak during the ceremony.
Relayers are asked to make a personal commitment to fighting cancer during the Fight Back Ceremony at 5 p.m.
"They often will make a commitment to eating healthy, raising more money for next years, giving up smoking - just something to fight back (against cancer)," said Swartzendruber.At 7 p.m., cancer survivors will take to the track for the first lap. This Survivors Lap honors those who have overcome or are still battling cancer. Miss Upper Peninsula USA 2013 Kaylyn Kutchie, of Ishpeming, who has been battling stage two brain cancer for the past six years, will join other survivors for the lap.
"I just think it's a great experience overall," said Michelle Mayville Cole, cancer survivor and Relay For Life walker, of the Relay For Life program.
Cole was first approached about participating in the relay in 2007, only two months after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Following a bilateral mastectomy, Cole is now cancer free and is still an active participant - not missing a Relay For Life since she began walking in the relays.
The relays have become a family event for Cole, who now makes and sells lap counters for relay participants with her nephews. Like other vendors at the event, the money raised by the lap counters is donated to the American Cancer Society to support cancer research.
Other families also come to Relay For Life to enjoy the food, music, vendors, games, and help support cancer research. This year the theme of the relay is board games, and many of the teams have planned fundraising games for participants and their families to enjoy.
"The main thing that we want people to know is that even if you're not on a team, you're welcome to come and check it out," said Swartzendruber.
Following the Survivors Lap at 7:30 p.m., caregivers will take to the track for a lap of their own. Anyone who has cared for someone with cancer can walk during the lap and be recognized for their support. Caregivers can walk the lap with the people that they help if those people are present at the event.
While it is asked that teams participating in Relay For Life have at least one member on the track at all times during regular laps, the event is not a race. Walkers can travel the track as quickly or as slowly as they wish.
"It's a relay, not a race. There's no finish line until we have a cure," said Swartzendruber.
At 9 p.m. is the Luminaria Ceremony, when the track is lined with luminary bags in honor of those who are currently battling or have been lost to cancer. Anyone can purchase and decorate a luminaria for $10.
"Until you've been there and seen all the bags lit up - It's just an overwhelming experience," said Cole.
The relay will wrap up at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday with the closing ceremony. Relayers take time during this ceremony to remember the lives of those lost to cancer and to celebrate a commitment to fighting back against the disease over the next year.
More information about Relay For Life, to make a donation, or sign up as a relayer visit www.relayforlife.org.