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Our View: Relay For Life is more than a fundraiser

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Cancer has touched all of us in some way, whether we realize it or not. Hopefully, cures for the varied and virulent forms of cancer will one day be found.

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The time spent finding those remedies, however, will remain prolonged unless we expedite their discoveries by working together. That's why the Relay For Life is such an important event in our community.

This year's edition of the Relay For Life of Woodbury starts at 6 p.m., Friday, June 19 in the Lion's Club band shell in Ojibway Park. It continues all through the night, culminating Saturday, June 20 at 9 a.m.

Woodbury is, in fact, but one of thousands of cities, large and small, throughout the nation that will host a Relay this year.

Praising the merits of this annual happening, no matter its locale, may seem a bit like stating the obvious, but they deserve mention nevertheless.

On the surface, the Relay may seem to be merely a well-organized, well-intentioned fundraiser. Businesses, churches, schools, organizations and private individuals have labored for months on the Woodbury Relay's financial goal to garner $230,000 this year.

It's true that money secured via the event goes toward furthering cancer research and education. These funds also contribute to advocacy and patient services.

The Relay, after all, is the signature fundraising venue for the American Cancer Society.

But it is much more than that.

The Relay also exists as both a community-building occasion and a support group for people who have lost a family member or friend to cancer -- or have survived the disease themselves. The Relay reminds us of the progress being made in the battle against cancer.

At roughly 6:30 p.m., on the heels of the opening ceremony, a traditional celebration of cancer survivors will take place, through the symbolic and usually emotional "Survivor's Victory Lap."

Cancer survivors walk together to share and celebrate with others on the same journey. They may be on foot or in a wheelchair, but all will tackle a lap over a course created for the event, while being cheered on by hundreds of team members and community supporters.

As the other participants join the survivors on the track for the long night of relaying, the camp-out begins. Camaraderie among teams is obvious as people visit, eat, play games, vie for silent auction items and, of course, walk for the cause.

A highlight of the Relay is its Luminaria Ceremony, held after sunset.

Thousands of luminarias will burn throughout the night to honor cancer survivors, to remember those who have lost their battle against cancer and to light the path for Relay participants.

Another unique facet of this year's Relay is the inclusion of the American Cancer Society's Department of Epidemiology Cancer Prevention Study 3 (CPS3).

CPS3 is only the third study to be conducted and this is the first year that Minnesota has been involved. Woodbury and Rochester were the two locations chosen to participate.

The goal of the study is to draw 500,000 adults to participate in the grassroots effort, which will track lifestyle behaviors for 20 years in hopes of identifying any links between those diagnosed with cancer.

The goal for Woodbury is to sign up 160 study volunteers. Anyone between the age of 30 and 65 who has never been diagnosed with cancer is eligible and one does not need to be part of a Relay team to participate.

The Woodbury Bulletin is proud to be a corporate sponsor of the Relay For Life of Woodbury. In this week's edition is a special section with important details we hope you'll keep for use at the 2009 Relay.

If you are a member of a Relay team, you have our respect and gratitude for working to make a difference.

If you're not, we urge you to go out to the track this weekend anyway. The simple act of walking, in some ways, is just as important as donating money.

Take a couple of laps this weekend. Enjoy the company of those around you -- and honor those who are not.

For more information about getting involved in Relay or CPS3, call Mary LaPrairie at (651) 730-4349, e-mail jbmslaps@yahoo.com or visit www.relayforlife.org/woodburymn.

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