Anoka Area Relay for Life will be fighting back against cancer Friday, June 22.
The annual relay will take place at the Anoka County Fairgrounds where more than 250 people have registered to walk through the night, honoring cancer survivors along with those who have lost their lives to the disease.
And it’s all in the name of raising money for cancer research.
The relay, which runs from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. will have teams walking through the night to show their support for all of those whose lives have been affected by cancer.
“This is such an awesome event and I wanted to get more involved,” said Kim Gust, co-chairperson of the Anoka Area Relay for Life, along with Janet St. Louis.
Gust has been involved in the relay for two years and she felt a fast connection with the fund-raiser. She said more than half the people she has lost in her life, including her grandparents, have died from cancer.
“For years I didn’t know how to fight back, but now, this is how I fight back,” said Gust.
The Anoka Area Relay for Life typically raises $50,000 each year for the American Cancer Society.
A special reception, including dinner, will take place for survivors at 5 p.m. All cancer survivors from the community are welcome, said Gust.
“We welcome all survivors,” said Gust. “We want to honor them and celebrate them.”
Opening ceremonies for the relay will start at 6:30 p.m. This will include words from this year’s honorary cancer survivor Ashley Verbick, who has been participating in the relay for several years with her team Ashley’s Angels. Verbick survived brain cancer as a young adult.
The opening ceremony will be followed by the survivor and caregiver laps, kicking off the overnight relay.
This year’s relay theme is “superheroes fighting against cancer” so there will be special superhero laps, said Gust. There are number of theme laps to keep people moving through the night from 11 p.m. until closing ceremonies at 4 a.m.
But the 9 p.m. luminaria lighting ceremony is likely the most touching part of the relay, when hundreds of candles are lit inside decorated paper bags that honor a cancer survivor or a lost loved one.
“I think it is really the most moving and motivating part of the whole thing,” said Gust.
Luminaria bags can be purchased by anyone in the community for $10.
Gust was also the chairperson for Bark For Life, a fund-raising walk for dog owners held in Ramsey in April, which raised $8,500 for the Anoka Area Relay for Life.
Bark for Life was very successful in its first year, said Gust.
“It was great because it really targeted a different group of people – the canine owners,” said Gust.
Along with Anoka, the relay also takes in neighboring communities including Andover, Ramsey and Coon Rapids. Already 26 teams have signed up to participate.
It is not too late for people get involved. Cancer survivors and caregivers are welcome to participate, the relay could always use more volunteers or the community can come out to offer support during the event or purchase a luminary bag or provide sponsorship.
To RSVP for the survivor’s reception, purchase a luminary bag or get more information contact Gust at [email protected] or call 612-237-8219.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]