ALPENA - The Relay for Life of Alpena County is Saturday at the county fairgrounds, and promises to be both a happy and solemn occasion.
Starting at 10 a.m. at the fairgrounds on 11th Street, the 24-hour event is dedicated to raising money to fight cancer, as well as to bring together all those who have been affected by it, event Co-Chair Clair LaFleur said. Cancer survivors and those who have lost friends or family will participate, along with anyone else looking to fight these life-changing medical conditions.
Anyone can sign up all through the event at a welcome tent at the fairgrounds, LaFleur said. Those wishing to sign up in advance can visit the event website, at main.acsevents.org/site/TR?fr_id=50154. It's free to participate, and has various vendors, auctions and other activities to raise money.
As of Wednesday evening, 415 participants and 39 teams had signed up and raised $45,576.69, according to the event website. Event Chair Kristen Wisniewski said she's received more paper applications, and she estimated there is a total of 450 participants so far.
Both LaFleur and Wisniewski have been affected by cancer in one way or another, they said. They're involved with Relay for Life as a way to honor the friends and family who have been diagnosed with cancer, some of whom have died.
"It's a way to give back to not only my friends and loved ones, but to my community," Wisniewski said.
Those directly touched by cancer will be honored with a series of events happening throughout Relay for Life, Wisniewski said. After the opening ceremony at 10 a.m., people can pledge ways to fight back against cancer at 2 p.m. Survivors and caregivers will be recognized at 5 p.m., with a dinner for survivors following at 5:30.
These ceremonies can be very emotional, some bringing joy while others pain, LaFleur said. This is especially so for the luminaria ceremony at 9 p.m. It's to honor those who have survived cancer, as well as those who have not.
"It's very easy to not have a dry eye at that one," she said. "We all have been touched by cancer, whether it's direct or knowing somebody else that has been directly" affected.
Starting at 9 a.m. Sunday, the closing ceremony is a happy occasion, where participants can celebrate how much they've raised for the American Cancer Society, LaFleur said. This nonprofit is dedicated to cancer research, and to supporting those who are diagnosed and their families, according to its website.
"They're wonderful times to just honor and really just have a way to support these people that have done so much and fought so hard," she said.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews.
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