In the words of 11-year-old Logan Sands, Relay for Life is kind of like a giant birthday party for everyone who has survived cancer.
"You get to see all the survivors together, and you get to see how many people in the area had cancer and beat it - skin cancer, lung cancer, brain cancer, that's what I had, we all come together and celebrate."
In 2006 at age 4, Logan, of Linwood, was found to have a cancerous brain tumor. Following radiation and chemotherapy treatment, he won his battle with the disease and is proud to walk today among a crew of purple-shirt-wearing cancer survivors at the community's annual Relay for Life event organized by his mom, Christine Sands-Bennett.
Relay for Life is an event held in communities all over the world, with a mission of celebrating the lives of cancer survivors, remembering those who have lost their battle, and raising money to fight the disease. All proceeds of the Relay for Life events, including admission costs and all donations, go directly to the American Cancer Society, the event's sponsor, to help find a cure.
Relay for Life events last for 12 consecutive hours and take place at athletic tracks. Participants join teams, and through the event, a member of each team must be walking around the track at all times.
Aside from walking, the event includes entertainment and activities, including an obstacle course, a wing-eating contest, a magic show, live music by Linwood local DJ Joe Mollineaux, Zumba, movie viewing on a big screen, food and much more.
The event begin at 6 p.m. with an opening ceremony that will include speeches by a cancer patient caretaker and a survivor speaker, and a reception honoring each of the survivors in attendance, who get a purple T-shirt to wear and other gifts.
The survivors then kick off the event with a survivor lap.
"As they walk people are just clapping and cheering, honoring the survivors and celebrating their lives," Christine said. "It's really a beautiful event." Then the event runs until 6 p.m, the next morning.
At 9:45 p.m., there is a luminaria lap, when all lights at the track are shut off and the track is lighted with a line of luminaria bags, each dedicated to a person who has lost his or her battle to cancer or who is in the midst of the fight. The luminaria lap is done in complete silence.
This year's event will be the third annual Relay for Life in Linwood, held at Mainland Regional High School.
In its first year, 12 teams registered and raised $20,000. Last year, 25 teams registered and raised $35,000. This year, as of May 31 - two weeks before the event - 45 teams were registered, raising $65,000.
"This is our favorite day of the year," Sands-Bennett said on behalf of her family. "We are trying to find a cure, and if that means finding new ways to raise money for research, then that's what we'll do."
Contact Elisa Lala:
If you go
2013 Relay for Life, a fundraiser event for the American Cancer Society
5:30 p.m. June 14 to 5:30 a.m. June 15
Mainland Regional High School, 1301 Oak Ave., Linwood
$10, free for cancer survivors
Tickets may be purchased online at relayforlife.org/linwoodnj or at the event. Registration starts at 4 p.m. June 14.