Celebrating more birthdays, including the 100th birthday of the American Cancer Society, will be the theme at the Relay For Life of Gahanna-New Albany.

Celebrating more birthdays, including the 100th birthday of the American Cancer Society, will be the theme at the Relay For Life of Gahanna-New Albany.

The Relay begins at 6 p.m. Friday, June 7, and continues until noon Saturday, June 8, at Gahanna Lincoln High School, 140 S. Hamilton Road.

Relay For Life is the signature event of the American Cancer Society, which was established in 1913. The Relay For Life began in 1985.

Relay teams camp out overnight and members take turns walking or running around a track or path, so at least one person is participating at all times.

All proceeds raised from the event are used for cancer research, education, prevention and patient services.

Peggy Whitman, co-chairwoman of the Gahanna-New Albany Relay, will be celebrating her "Sweet 16" at the June 7-8 event. That's 16 years of being a cancer survivor.

"I was diagnosed in 1997 with cervical cancer," Whitman said. "Two weeks after diagnosis, I had a total hysterectomy. Then I had 25 treatments of radiation, five days a week for five weeks."

Two years after Whitman was diagnosed, she saw a poster in a store window about Relay For Life.

"I was looking for a way to give something back," she said. "I called the number and formed a team, a team of one. My kids were little at the time. I started there, and I've been doing it ever since."

The 1982 Gahanna Lincoln High School graduate served as chairwoman of the local Relay for two years, and she has regularly participated in event committees.

This year, she said, Team Whitman is a team of four.

"It has been a small family group," Whitman said. "That has never deterred me from continuing on and being part of it.

"I can't imagine not being part of it. The survivor lap is a reminder of everything I got through. We not only celebrate survivors but everyone who fought the battle but didn't survive."

Whitman said Relay For Life is about fighting all types of cancers.

"People feel when they've had cancer, they put a number of years on it," Whitman said. "They don't feel like a survivor until five years. Relay is about anyone who has gone through cancer treatment, whether six months or 16 years ago."

Co-chairwoman Stephanie Musko said this year's Relay will begin with a special reception to honor all cancer survivors.

A "party with a purpose" will continue through the night, Musko said.

Some of the activities include a bounce house, photo booth, face painting, frozen T-shirt contest and a pie-eating contest on Friday night.

Saturday's activities will feature a 5K. The $25 registration fee includes a T-shirt and all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast.

"The 5K was brought up to us as a suggestion by our American Cancer Society staff partner as a fun way to get more attendance on Saturday morning," Musko said. "Typically, since we go all through the night, the participants that cover the night walking shifts are often tired and we love to get everyone excited about the final hours of our event."

The classic car show also is on Saturday for that reason, Musko said.

"Our survivor chairperson, Sue Horn, and her team have been single-handedly organizing the car show for several years now and I'm constantly amazed by the fabulous job they do," she said.

Musko said the goal this year is to raise $66,500.

Twenty-one teams and 176 participants currently are registered, with pledges totaling $34,570 as of May 30.

Among the teams are the New Albany-Plain Local Schools, Gahanna Area Jaycees, Gahanna Lincoln Lions Football, HealthSource of New Albany and Gahanna Lincoln High School.

Since 2000, Musko said, more than $870,000 has been raised by the Gahanna-New Albany Relay For Life.

By next year, she anticipates hitting $1 million in the fight against cancer.