The fight to find a cure for cancer will continue as the American Cancer Society will hold the Northeast Montana Relay For Life this Friday and Saturday at the Valley County Fairgrounds.
Event organizers said that Relay For Life has been a staple in the community since the mid-1990s, but has gained steam since switching from an bIannual event to an annual event in 2001.
Members volunteer their time to see that this event – which unites cancer survivors and those who wish to honor memories of loved ones who lost their personal battle with cancer – takes place year after year. They say it is time consuming but completely worth it.
“I work at the hospital in radiology,” said Sandi Mason, the silent auction coordinator for the relay. “I have personally been involved in the diagnosis of cancer and I've lost both of my parents to cancer. It's not just this country; cancer affects all walks of life.”
The two-day event wouldn't be possible without the continuous support of the community, organizers said.
In order to conduct the silent auction each year, organizers gather donations from businesses in the community as well as gift baskets participating teams create raise proceeds for cancer research.
“There are certain people in this community that just go above and beyond,” Mason said. “There are businesses that do the same thing and all the money that we make at the event goes toward the American Cancer Society.”
Once the money reaches the American Cancer Society, it is used toward various programs that assist families of cancer survivors as well as further the research of cancer in hopes of finding a cure.
Relay For Life first began nationally in 1985 and will reach its 30-year mark in 2015.
This year's event will be held once again at the Valley County Fairgrounds and Mona Amundson, sponsorship chair on the committee, said that organizers applied for a grant this year to pave the area around the concessions as well as the area in which they utilize for the track. Amundson said that the paving should done be in time for next year's event.
While Relay For Life was established to raise cancer awareness and celebrate those who continue to fight the battle against cancer, many of the organizers point to the luminaria ceremony as the glue that holds the event together.
“That's the heartfelt moment of the event,” said Darla Larson, team development chairman. “Going around and seeing the hundreds and hundreds of luminarias that are lit with people's names on them that have been affected by cancer. A lot of people come to see that, just to see their family member's name there.”
Teams from all over Northeastern Montana participate and organizers want to make sure everyone knows that they're invited to participate whether cancer has affected their lives or not.
Lisa Guckenberger, who has been a relay specialist for the American Cancer Society since last December said that a job like this is something she always wanted because of it's personal ties.
“A lot of my family has been affected by cancer,” Guckenberger said. “There's so much we can do and so much progress we can make, but without funding we can't do the research needed to find a cure. That's why Relay For Life is so important.”
Organizers still seek volunteers Thursday night to help fill luminaries. The Relay For Life event itself will begin at 5:30 p.m. with team registration at the fair office. Food will be for sale as the Re-LEI-ers will have hotdogs, nachos, and other food items for sale.