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Mercer Island Relay for Life next month

The Mercer Island Relay for Life is set for May 14-15 at Islander Stadium. Event co-chair Vanessa Gaffney, a senior at Mercer Island High School, said the students have already raised $5,000 more than they had raised last year at this time.

“So far we’ve raised about $25,000,” Gaffney said. “Our goal is $100,000.”

She said much of the money comes in at the last minute. Last year the Mercer Island Relay raised $92,000. The money goes to the American Cancer Society for research and patient care.

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.

People will camp out at Mercer Island High School, taking turns walking or running around the track. Gaffney said they expect about 50 teams, or 500 participants, to take part. She said about two-thirds will be high school kids, with the balance from the community. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. Because cancer never sleeps, Relay is an overnight event up to 24 hours in length.

It’s also fun. Gaffney said, “Think Summer Celebration with a cause.” Relay events feature fun costumes, food, entertainment and music. Toward the beginning, cancer survivors take part in the first lap, a very emotional part of the event. At 11 p.m., a luminary ceremony is held to honor those who lost the battle. The following morning, the event closes with a fight back ceremony.

Relay began in 1985 when Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon in Tacoma, ran and walked around a track for 24 hours to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Since then, Relay has grown from a single man’s passion to fight cancer into the world’s largest movement to end the disease.

Each year, more than 3.5 million people in 5,000 communities in the United States, along with additional communities in 20 other countries, gather to take part in this global phenomenon and raise much-needed funds and awareness to save lives from cancer. Thanks to Relay participants, the American Cancer Society continues to save lives.

To become involved or form a team, visit www.mirelay.org.

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