It was a sea of purple shirts on Saturday morning at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn as the 18th annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life kicked off another 24 hour walkathon. The event for the first year combines relays from Lincoln and Roseville with Auburn to become the first annual United Placer County Relay for Life. The event celebrates and honors the struggle of cancer survivors and raises awareness and funds to combat a disease that has touched almost everyone. “We have 42 teams, over 530 people with 110 survivors that will be walking to raise funds,” said Caron Russell, American Cancer Society staff member. “For 24 hours, each team will have at least one member walking the course.”
The goal is for each team to raise money through food, crafts and games during the 24 hour period. Theme team booths also raised awareness of certain cancers with displays and literature lining the walking route. “We set a goal of raising $150,000, when we walked in this morning we had $104,000 committed,” Russell said.
A special free breakfast honoring cancer survivors began at 9 a.m. then an emotional survivor’s ceremony opened the Relay for Life at 10 a.m. as each survivor was called on stage, given a commemorative medal, had their name, diagnosis and survivor period announced. Supported by each other, survivors recently diagnosed were asked to look to the example of survivors with over 40 years of beating the disease as a hope for their struggle. The events theme is to Celebrate-Remember and Fight Back. “We walk (for 24 hours) because cancer never sleeps and cancer doesn’t care if it’s hot, cold or uncomfortable,” said Russell.
A survivor and caregiver lap kicked off the relay as hundreds of people filed in behind the American Cancer Society banner and made the first lap. After that, teams with names like Queens for a Cure, Lifesavers, Tumorators and Cancer Crusaders filled in with their members and the marathon to beat cancer again began for another year. A highlight of the relay is a special luminaria ceremony at 9 p.m. Saturday evening as candlelit luminaries line the walking route with names and photos of family members and friends who have passed away or are struggling with cancer. Solemnly team members walk by in the dark with the route lit only by candles and remember those who have succumbed or are fighting for their lives. The relay concludes today with closing ceremony beginning at 7 a.m.