ALPENA - For 24 hours straight this weekend, local support for cancer will be demonstrated in the form of walking. The American Cancer Society's 2011 Relay For Life is taking place at the Alpena County Fairgrounds beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday and stretching through the night until Sunday at 10 a.m. Interested participants are encouraged to sign up for the event all this week.
Event Chair Stacy Roznowski, who has been on the planning committee for nine years and involved with Relay For Life for 12, said there will be entertainment during the day. Children's activities will be put on Saturday from 1-4 p.m., local bands are donating their time to provide music, food will be available, and booths will be set up selling different items to raise money for fundraising.
"A lot of people just want to come and walk, support the survivors or a loved one that's passed. It's 24-hour awareness ... because cancer never sleeps," Roznowski said, adding there will be people from the planning committee and 31 teams on the track for the full 24 hours.
"We just want people to know it's a community event. Everyone has been touched by cancer one way or another," she said.
American Cancer Society Associate Director Nolan Piotrowski said they are hoping to get 1,000-1,200 participants for this year's event. He said huge growth is expected, and Alpena's relay was selected to be included in a cancer prevention study.
"We've grown with teams, participants, committee members. Alpena's relay has been chosen for our cancer prevention study, or CPS-3 for short, which will be rolled out next year in 2012. That's a 30-year study following the lifestyles of the community for anybody that enrolls," Piotrowski said. "That's great, great news not only for the relay but for all the community as well."
2011 Relay For Life
When: Saturday at 10 a.m. until Sunday at 10 a.m.
Where: Alpena County Fairgrounds
While community members continue to walk throughout the night, survivors will be celebrated and lost loved ones will be honored in several special ceremonies.
A fight back ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday. Then a survivor's lap will occur at 5 p.m., followed by a survivor's dinner at 5:30 p.m.
"It's a short ceremony directed to survivors," Roznowski said. "They get to pick a lap to walk around the track in honor of them, crowds cheering them on. It's a pretty emotional time."
Roznowski said the dinner is for survivors and caregivers, because "that's why we're there." She said it's probably the most important ceremony.
Finally, the luminaries ceremony will be held at 9 p.m. Saturday evening. Roznowski said people can purchase bags for $10 at the Friends Together Center in memory of someone they've lost to cancer, and many will decorate them with pictures.
"The bags are placed around the track and lit with candles, and we read the names. (There are) hundreds and hundreds of names, close to 1,000 I'm sure," she said.
As of Tuesday, $25,383.96 had been raised for Relay For Life.
Those interested in participating in Relay For Life must complete the participant and/or survivor registration form and return it to Roznowski or the Friends Together office, located at 1013 State Avenue in Alpena. To R.S.V.P. for the survivor's dinner, call Friends Together at 356-3231. Roznowski can answer further questions at 255-7544. Visit the American Cancer Society's website at www.cancer.org.
Jessica Nikolich can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 343.