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June 11, 2008 > Relay for Life changing hope to cure

Relay for Life changing hope to cure

By Sargunjot Kaur

Only a decade ago experts were predicting the cancer battle to be undefeatable, yet today's statistics have proved them wrong. To celebrate the courageous survivors and to commemorate those lost to cancer, every year the Relay for Life in connection with the American Cancer Society is held in cities across the United States, Guatemala, Jamaica, Australia, and many other countries around the world. "The more and more progress we have had in cancer patients, it shows how we need more and more people to join us in this mission to fight cancer more and more," said Kathy Norwell, a participant of Relay for Life for 7 years and currently part of the Cure Crusaders Fremont team.

Relay for life began over 20 years ago by an inspirational surgeon, Dr. Gordy Klatt, who loved to run marathons and decided to create something from his hobby. He spent a grueling 24 hours, running over 83 miles, around the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma to personally raise money for the fight against cancer. The result was $27,000 that first year. Just one year later, 19 teams shared his indomitable spirit to raise $33,000 for the 24-Hour Run Against Cancer. In 2005, Relay for Life including runners and walkers, raised $400 million nationwide, California contributed $29 million.

Two hands are better than one, and the power of 3.5 million hands united against one cause can save a tremendous amount of lives. "I started because my former boss had gotten involved and I personally had lost family to cancer. The experience really changed me," said Norwell, one of many who not only has been impacted by cancer and motivated to change her lifestyle and health choices in response to her Relay for Life involvement. "It is a fun event where we not only raise awareness, hope, and support, but meet a lot of people and get to part of something truly amazing," said Norwell.

Team campsites will have theme-based tents for each group of participants. The Cure Crusaders, one of 31 registered teams for the Fremont Relay, will participate to support research on Breast Cancer. "All the teams will have activities and brochures to pass out specific to their cancer. A Silent Auction run at the event is powered by local companies, the police and fire stations, as well as each team which put together baskets of goodies to be bid for. "All the money is given to us as a donation and all of it goes to the American Cancer Society to be used for research, advocacy, education, and support," said Norwell. The Fremont Relay for Life hopes to reach their $150,000 goal this year.

Relay for life has become a tradition where friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and kids of all ages come together by running, walking, or jogging in shifts for 24 hours to pay tribute to all those who have felt the touch of cancer. The excitement of music, auctions and other activities, and the appetizing food of the event fuels the 24 hours with hope and remembrance. Near the time of sunset, another big event that takes place is the Luminaria, the ceremony of lights. "It is one of the most moving ceremonies of hope. Each team prepares a bag with candles which lights the track," said Norwell. This year's ceremony is being organized by local high school students who also want to commemorate those who have lost their lives, those who have survived, and those who are still fighting the battle against cancer. "It is not just about taking laps. It's coming together to share the memories and remember those who have lost to the disease," said Norwell.

Union City, Newark, Hayward, and Fremont will all be having their relays in the coming months. Teams are still being formed and many teams are looking for more members.

Relay for Life Schedule:

Milpitas - June 20
Milpitas Community Center
457 E. Calaveras Blvd.
(408) 946-8492

Fremont - June 28
California School for the Deaf.
39350 Gallaudet Dr.

Newark- July 19
Newark Junior High School
6201 Lafayette Ave

Hayward- July 26
Moreau Catholic High School
27170 Mission Blvd.

Union City- August 9
James Logan High School
1800 H St.

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