Gahanna and New Albany's annual Relay For Life, which benefits the American Cancer Society, will begin at 6 p.m. Friday, June 6, at Gahanna Lincoln High School, 140 S. Hamilton Road.
The event will conclude the following morning.
Many New Albany High School students plan to walk this year after learning about the fundraiser in the high school's new Relay For Life Club.
The club was organized by the high school football coach, Pat Samanich, and his assistant coach, Matthew (Bubba) Kidwell.
Kidwell said they asked last year's high school football players to participate in the Relay For Life, and the team raised $5,400.
This school year, they formed the Relay For Life Club, which opened the experience to more New Albany students and has 32 students as members.
Kidwell said he and Samanich believe students need to participate in programs outside their daily school activities to help them grow as individuals and prepare to become "husbands, fathers and productive citizens in the future."
The club has been able to attract students who've watched people battle cancer and also those who don't have a personal connection to the disease.
"I've learned that cancer affects everybody in one way or another and the only chance we have at stopping something that never sleeps is to never give up on trying to solve it," said 17-year-old junior Anna Wolfe.
Junior Paul Hong and freshman Jacob Ebright said they learned about the club by being involved with the New Albany football team.
"I initially got interested in Relay For Life after our football coaches, who are the leaders of the Relay For Life Club, talked to the whole football team about what the club was," Ebright, 15, said. "I immediately became interested in participating because I wanted to do the most I could to support finding a cure for cancer."
Ebright said he is familiar with the disease and its effects, having volunteered at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
"As a result of experiences I've had as a volunteer at Children's Hospital, I've been able to see the devastation that comes with cancer and I want to be able to do everything I can to help find a cure for it," Ebright said.
Hong, 16, also has a personal connection to the disease.
"I have an uncle who passed away in his fight against cancer," Hong said. "It's always good to extend a helping hand and support others in their battle."
Sophomore Daniel Rako, 16, said he is very passionate about the cause, partly because of his late grandmother.
"My grandma died last year due to complications of stage 4 lung cancer," Rako said. "She never smoked a day in her life so it's weird that she would get lung cancer. She had a nagging cough that wouldn't go away and boom: Her life had an instant expiration date.
"Cancer does not discriminate. Cancer is a monster and a thief robbing us of the people we love so dearly. We need to end cancer. We need to make it go away. Now."
Kidwell said six club members are walking the entire 18 hours of the event and the club set its fundraising goal at $10,000.
Though the club had not reached that goal as of last week, Kidwell said, the experience has been positive for all involved.
Many of the New Albany participants will walk with members of the New Albany Special Olympics team.
"We did invite our Special Olympics families to join the New Albany Relay For Life team on June 6," said Amy Thomas, one of the founders of New Albany Special Olympics. "We thought it would be nice to give back to those who have supported us over the four years since we started, from the coaches and volunteers who donate their time to the people who've donated money to our program."
The Gahanna-New Albany Relay For Life was held at several different locations before landing at Gahanna Lincoln High School three years ago.
"The location is very important to the success of our event and Gahanna Lincoln High School has been wonderful to work with to build our Relay event each year," said event chairwoman Stephanie Musko. "The centralized location in Gahanna, along with the visibility we receive from being right in the center of things, ensures that not only our participants can locate the event, but we are also able to attract drive-by attention from people who may not know a Relay is being held."
Musko said last year, 300 people participated. As of last week, 260 registered online for the June 6-7 event.
Last year, the event raised $66,512.
Musko said the fundraising goal this year is $68,000.
"So far, we have raised almost $34,000 and with many exciting fundraisers still to go, we will definitely be exceeding our goal again this year," she said.
For more information, visit relay.acsevents.org.