Relay for Life of the Woodburn Area, which raises money for the American Cancer Society, kicks off its 18-hour relay event at 6 p.m. this Friday at Centennial Park (900 Parr Road N.E.).
Woodburn's relay teams have raised $48,223.97 so far this year. The ultimate goal is to raise $70,000.
"We've got a little way to go," said Rhonda Judson, Woodburn Relay's accounting and registration chair.
The event, which combines an overnight walking relay with a festival-like event, is a final push for fundraising. At the event, teams will be selling silent auction items and food including baked goods, tamales, chicharrones and pozole, while taking part in other fundraising efforts.
Lisa Martinez, a community manager for Relay for Life who has helped organize the Woodburn event, said that while the relay is focused on a serious issue, the event itself has a focus on fun.
"It's kind of a festival. There's going to be a bounce house, a kid's zone, we've got live music," Martinez said. "It's our yearly celebration. Relay's kind of really a giant picnic to celebrate how much money we've raised."
Relay for Life began in 1985 when Dr. Gordon Klatt, a colorectal surgeon in Tacoma, Wash., decided to walk around the University of Puget Sound track for 24 hours to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Friends, family and patients watched him walk more than 83 miles. That first year, he raised $27,000 for cancer research through donations.
Since then, communities across the country have started their own relays. The money raised helps fund cancer research and American Cancer Society programming.
This year marks the 16th Woodburn relay. Judson has been volunteering for the event since its first year in Woodburn.
"(My) whole family is affected by cancer," Judson said. "I'm a cancer survivor. Our son survived testicular cancer when he was 18. My father survived prostate cancer but succumbed to bone and lung cancer. … My niece is battling brain cancer right now. My aunt died of colorectal cancer. It can affect anybody."
Martinez said that 75 percent of the money raised for Relay for Life goes directly to programs and services, with the remaining 25 percent going to administrative costs. Those programs include American Cancer Society's 24-hour cancer information hotline (1-800-227-2345), lodging for patients who have to travel for treatment, rides to treatments and other programming to support cancer patients and survivors.
This year's relay kicks off with a 6 p.m. opening ceremony that celebrates everyone who's been affected by cancer. "Whether someone's been diagnosed for 10 days or been cancer-free for 10 years, they gather together for the crowd to cheer them on," reads an event description.
At around 6:15 p.m., cancer survivors are invited to join the Survivor's Lap, which marks the first lap of the relay. Survivors, whether or not they're registered for the event, may also receive a free t-shirt and dinner. A Caregiver's Lap will immediately follow, with caregivers invited to take a lap with the person they've supported.
At 10 p.m., there will be a luminaria ceremony. Luminaria are paper bags that feature the name of a cancer victim or survivor with a candle illuminating the bag from the inside.
Finally, at 11 a.m., there will be a closing ceremony.
Those interested in supporting Woodburn Relay for Life can visit relayforlife.org/woodburnor and click "Donate Now." Volunteers will also be selling luminaria this week at Fourth of July events in Woodburn and Gervais. Luminaria can also be ordered online by going to the same website, clicking on "Forms and Documents," then clicking on "Luminaria."
And a major way to help with the cause is to attend the event, Martinez said. She said Woodburn's relay stands out among those held by other cities in Oregon because of the amount of community participation.
"I do a lot of events and this one is one of my favorite events because of the community," Martinez said. "This community all steps up. They all work really hard. They all have a vision. And at this event I see more people from the neighborhood just coming to check out the event.
"This is a lot of fun for a good cause," she continued. "Please bring your money and come check it out."