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'Relay' celebrates life, survivors

The city of Saratoga Springs has been home to a Relay For Life event for the last nine years. The overnight event is a walk-a-thon designed to raise money for the American Cancer Society. More important, say event organizers and participants, it is a celebration of life and time to honor cancer survivors.

The Relay For Life is about fundraising, but it is also spiritual. People get emotional and really get involved, said Keith Davidson, regional director of the American Cancer Society.

This year's event was held June 9-10 at the Eastside Recreation grounds on Lake Avenue. Davidson said the Relay enjoyed phenomenal growth this year, bringing in $121,643 in donations, a figure that tops last years by about $20,000.

Funds were raised by the 643 participants who walked. They obtained donations from families and friends who sponsored them, asked businesses for donations, and sold luminara bags. The bags, with candles inside, honor a cancer survivor or memorialize a person who has lost their life to cancer. The bags were lit and surrounded the area in which participants walked.

The event began with the recognition of 107 local cancer survivors. Following tradition, they alone walked the first lap and were joined by team members and other participants thereafter.

"This year it poured on the Relay," said Davidson. "Life is not all sunny skies, 75 degrees with a gentle breeze. It rained that night but the spirits weren't dampened."

The money raised will support a variety of American Cancer Society interests. Davidson said the four major focuses are programs of research, education, advocacy, and services. While funding is done on a national level, local examples of the use of those funds are the $1 million research grant to the Albany Medical College and regularly offered services titled "Look Good, Feel Better" and "Man to Man." The funds also support a toll-free 24-hour hotline for patients and families seeking additional information or support. The hotline number is 1-800-ACS-2345 and information about the American Cancer Society can be found at www.cancer.org.

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