Relay For Life event is Friday at WinterPlace Park

Team members make a lap at WinterPlace Park during the 2017 Wicomico Relay For Life.

Relay For Life of Wicomico County, the annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, will kick off this Friday, Sept. 27, at WinterPlace Park.

Organizers hope the event will attract a crowd to the 26th annual event in the county.

“We want people to know this is open to the public,” said Michelle Wright, a member of the Relay leadership team.

This year, 48 teams have been busy all year raising money, and they will continue their efforts all night at their campsites, she said.

This year’s goal is $230,000. As of Monday, $145,502 had been raised from participating teams and sponsors. Money supports cancer research as well as services to cancer patients such as rides to chemotherapy appointments.

The event will begin at 6 p.m. with an opening ceremony that honors everyone who’s been affected by cancer and everyone who has contributed to the success of this year’s Relay.

The Survivor/Caregiver Walk takes place following the ceremony as cancer survivors and their caregivers take the first lap while everyone cheers them on. After that, there will be themed laps around the pond all night long, Wright said.

The event also will include a Luminaria Ceremony in which each light represents a life taken by cancer, a survivor of cancer or a support for a person still fighting the disease.

“That is a very emotional thing to witness,” Wright said.

The luminaria can be purchased that night as well as lanterns etched with the word “faith,” she said. The lanterns, which participants can take home with them, are $50 for large and $25 for a smaller version.

The closing ceremony will be held at midnight.

Throughout the event, there will be food trucks, live music and a kid zone.

Wright said she has been involved with the local Relay For Life since its first year. She joined a team at Perdue Farms where she was working at the time after her father was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

“So many lives have been touched by it,” she said.

Relay for Life started in 1985 when Dr. Gordon “Gordy” Klatt walked and ran around a track in Tacoma, Washington, raising money to help the American Cancer Society with the nation’s biggest health concern: cancer.

Friends, family and patients watched and supported him as he walked and ran more than 83.6 miles and raised $27,000 through pledges to help save lives from cancer.

As he circled the track, he thought of how he could get others to take part. He envisioned having teams participate in a 24-hour fundraising event. The next year, 19 teams were part of the first Relay For Life event at the historical Stadium Bowl and raised $33,000.

After previously battling stomach cancer, Klatt died from heart failure in 2014 at the age of 71.

Relay For Life take place in all 50 states and has spread across the globe. More than 4 million people in 26 countries take part in Relay events every year raising money for cancer control organizations around the world.

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