Every year, over four million people in 20 countries come together in the fight to end cancer through the Relay For Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Participants raise money, spread awareness, and provide a support network to promote cancer research and help those battling or in remission from cancer. The Relay’s motto is “Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back” — to celebrate survivors and those still fighting, remember those lost, and fight back by raising money and awareness to save lives. During a Relay event, teams camp out overnight and walk laps around a track throughout the day and night. Cancer never sleeps — and neither does the spirit of the community at each Relay event.
I have participated in the Relay for the past few years and will be back again this summer. Here's why you should become involved too.
1. Someone you know has had cancer
In 2016 alone, there will be an estimated 1,600,000 new cancer cases, and about 595,000 deaths from those cases. That is approximately three new cases and one death per minute. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S.; the chances that you know someone who has or has had the disease are tremendously high. Whether it be a family member, friend, coworker, or neighbor, cancer affects the lives of those around you. Relay for them. I Relay for my mom, who has been cancer-free for 13 years.
2. Donations go a long way
Money raised for Relay is used in a variety of ways, from cancer research to helping drive patients to treatment centers to spreading awareness about life-saving screening procedures.
3. The impact on survival rates is undeniable
Relay and the American Cancer Society are changing lives, helping create a world with less cancer and more birthdays. As the chart above demonstrates, their impact is crucial.
4. Remembrance and honor with the Luminaria ceremony
Relay can also be therapeutic in honoring those who have already passed away or are still fighting. It may be overwhelming to talk about survivors if you have already lost someone to cancer. But Relay does not fail to remember and honor those who lost, or are still fighting, their battle to cancer. Relay sells luminarias, small paper bags that hold a candle and have names of survivors or deceased patients written on them. The luminarias are lined up around the track. When night falls, each candle is lit, beautifully honoring those lost and symbolizing the hope to keep saving lives.
5. To join a community
Relay For Life events create a community of people all united against cancer. People understand your experiences, knowing how it feels to have lost loved ones, and are passionate in their efforts. Attending a Relay event is like entering an immediate community.
6. There is probably an event near you
Over 5,200 communities in 20 countries hold Relay For Life events. Once you find an event, it is easy to fundraise or start a team. Find out where there is an event nearest you. Even if you do not attend an event, it is convenient and just as beneficial to make a donation online or donate a luminaria.