Pickerington and Reynoldsburg area residents are joining forces once again to raise both money and awareness in the fight against cancer.
They are teaming with the American Cancer Society to hold the Pickerington-Reynoldsburg "Relay For Life" event at Pickerington High School North, 7800 Refugee Road, starting at 7 p.m. June 28 and ending at 1 p.m. June 29.
The 18-hour event brings teams from both communities together to take turns either walking or running on Pickerington North's track.
"We have 17 teams this year and we hope to raise over $25,000," said Dawn Grieves, event chairwoman.
Prior to the official start of the relay, a "Survivors Reception" will be held inside the school at 5:30 p.m.
The Relay For Life will commence with the first lap, designated as the "Cancer Survivors Lap."
"All the survivors line up and they walk around the track and all the participants cheer them on," said Andrea Perlman of the American Cancer Society.
Perlman said one of the highlights of the Relay For Life event is the luminaria ceremony, which starts at 10 p.m.
"People may purchase a luminaria in memory or in honor of someone who has been touched by cancer," Perlman said.
She said the luminaria bags are placed around the track and lighted during a special memorial program that includes speakers telling their own cancer stories.
The Pickerington Relay For Life traces its origins to 1999 when several local families aligned to fight cancer and honor those who succumbed to the disease.
One of those families was that of Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce President Helen Mayle.
"My family helped create the Relay For Life-Pickerington after my son Michael was diagnosed with cancer, months after my mother-in-law died from cancer," Mayle said.
As is the case with most Relay participants, Mayle's life has been immeasurably touched by cancer.
She subsequently lost her father-in-law and a friend to cancer and currently has a brother-in-law receiving cancer treatment.
Mayle will be on a team comprised of family and friends.
"A lot of the team are (chamber of commerce) members with similar 'cancer' stories," she said.
Her family will run the concession stand, donating food and beverages for the duration of the relay.
"There is no fee for food, but we encourage donations," Mayle said.
"A cup of coffee may get a quarter donation or $20," she said.
Relay officials said those wishing to participate in the event can still sign up as a team member or a volunteer, all the way up to the time the event starts.
"(It's) open to everyone and we encourage anyone to attend," Mayle said.
"They can come for the opening, and then stay for dinner, or come to the luminary ceremony.
"They can walk a few laps, or play the games. It is a fun time," she said.
Mayle said it also is very powerful, as survivors, caretakers, family and friends gather together for a collective battle to fight cancer.
"We are fighting cancer by raising money for research through the American Cancer Society," Mayle said.
For more information about the Relay For Life or cancer, call 1-800-227-2345 or visit the American Cancer Society website at cancer.org.