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Celebrate, Remember, and Fight Back

Out of My Head

Posted: February 18, 2008 3:08 p.m.
Updated: April 18, 2008 5:02 a.m.

If you have attended Relay For Life before, then you already get it. You get that the American Cancer Society's 24-hour team event is an empowering, feel-good fundraiser. You get that funds raised at Relay go toward helping the ACS fight cancer while assisting those battling it.

You get that the ACS is a nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem.

You get that once you're among the Relay "family," you are never alone in your cancer journey, for Relay fosters camaraderie, understanding, and support.

You get that the majority of people behind Relay have been personally touched by cancer. (Some of our hardest working volunteers and organizers do so fresh off their radiation treatments, or with chemo pumps in tow.)

You get that cancer is an indiscriminate enemy impervious to age, socioeconomic status, or ethnic background - it strikes pre-school ballerinas, "sweet 16s," active grandpas, and Olympic athletes at the top of their game.

You get that cancer should be sent to the list of diseases that no longer kill people, but instead are chronic, manageable ailments one can live with to a ripe old age.

If you get all this then you probably also know that in a few months Relay For Life returns to our valley.

You may also know that on Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., a kickoff for Relay For Life will take place at the Spectrum Athletic Club in Valencia.

There, community members will learn about the 10th Annual Relay For Life Santa Clarita, "Around The World: Passport To Hope," and how they can participate in and support the 24-hour ACS fundraiser - which is slated for May 31 to June 1 at Central Park in Saugus.

The kickoff, which is always fun and motivating, will feature: Information about the Relay experience as well as the ACS' new CPS3 (Cancer Prevention Study) Program - a study aimed at better identifying the genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that cause or prevent cancer.

As always, games, raffles, prizes, free refreshments, and ACS cancer literature will be available at kickoff. There'll be plenty of seats available that night - hopefully you will help fill them.

* * *

During Relay, teams take turns walking or running laps, with each team keeping at least one member on the track at all times.

But it's about much more than just doing laps to raise money for ACS research, education, advocacy, and local programs and services.

"Relay is about celebrating survivorship and realizing you are not alone in this battle," said Relay Team Recruitment Chair Brandi Newquist, a three-time cancer survivor currently undergoing treatment for lung metastases. "It's empowering to be surrounded by an entire community promoting awareness and raising money for one common goal - to eliminate cancer."

A new feature at this year's Relay is the Subaru (sponsor) Survivor Village. Open during the entire 24 hours, it will supply cancer survivors and caregivers with activities, speakers, and information on legislation and patient services. As always at Relay: A poignant and stirring Survivor's first lap; an evening luminaria ceremony to lovingly remember those we've lost to cancer and honor all survivors; lots of food, live music and entertainment, games, and numerous other engaging activities.

Also new at Relay 2008: Qualifying attendees can sign up for the CPS3 Program. The overall nationwide CPS3 goal is to enroll 500,000 adults between 30 and 65 years who have no personal history of cancer.
Following members for the next 20 to 30 years, this new landmark study will help the ACS continue its work to eradicate cancer as a major health concern for future generations.

Since its (local) inception, Relay has raised more than $3 million in the fight against cancer, said Candy Spahr, who, along with fellow tri-chairs Teresa Kerr and John Fortman, heads up the mega-charity event.

"That achievement," Spahr proudly adds, "has made the Santa Clarita Valley No. 1 Relay For Life in Los Angeles County."

Thus far 68 teams have signed up for Relay but the aim is for 100, Spahr said, noting that Relay 2007 raised about $480,000, and this year's goal is $500,000.

* * *

OK, by now I think you get it.

I think you understand the power of Relay For Life, and the fact that your involvement can make a huge impact on the war against cancer.

As an active volunteer of the ACS SCV Unit, and someone who longs for a day when no one ever again "gets" this disease, I urge you to attend the kickoff and then support Relay!

Whether it's through team building, corporate sponsorships, or volunteering, come join the family. Let's work together to make the 10th Annual Relay For Life Santa Clarita a vibrant success! Let's grab the "Passport To Hope" and direct our energies toward a cancer-free tomorrow!

For more information about Relay For Life or the kickoff, go online to You may also call the ACS SCV Unit at (661) 298-0886, option 3. ACS cancer information is available 24 hours a day at or by calling (800) ACS-2345.

Diana Sevanian is a freelance writer and Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own opinions and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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