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Relay officials look to stay on top in 2011

This year's Relay for Life of South Washington County youth involvement nearly doubled from 36 teams last year to 60 teams this year. Youth teams make up nearly half of the total teams this year.

Expectations are sky-high for this year's Relay For Life of South Washington County.

After leading the state in fundraising in 2010, local Relay organizers are looking to stay on top - and keep raising the bar.

"We want that distinction again," said Mara Mayberry, co-chairperson of the local Relay event.

This year South Washington County Relay organizers are aiming for a goal of $230,000. All money raised goes toward the cancer battle: cancer research and funding of cancer treatments.

Last year the South Washington County Relay attracted 949 walkers. This year the goal is 1,287.

Mayberry said she's confident those numbers will be reached at the event, which begins June 3 and runs until the morning of June 4 at East Ridge High School.

"(Relay For Life) brings a community together for a common cause," she said. "It's more of an experience than an event."

And event-goers almost always return once they get a taste.

"They see the frustration of cancer is replaced by an empowerment," Mayberry said.

So here's how this year's event will go.

Around 4 p.m., campsites will be erected and people begin to arrive.

Two hours later, opening ceremonies begin. Choirs from Woodbury, East Ridge and Park high schools will lead the crowd in song, while cheerleaders escort cancer survivors for their victory lap.

And then the place starts to rock - literally. The School of Rock house band takes the stage at 7:30 p.m.

"It's really quite festive," Mayberry said.

Other entertainment for the event includes musician Matthew Griswold, who also performed at last year's Relay. He will perform during the luminaria ceremony, which begins at 10 p.m.

As walkers circle the track all night, their path will be illuminated by more than 5,000 luminaries - lighted bags bearing the names of people who have battled cancer, "each representing a different cancer journey."

Mayberry, a breast cancer survivor, said the luminaria ceremony symbolizes the journey of cancer from darkness into light: walkers carry on until daylight.

"Nighttime is more reflective," Mayberry said.

The final victory lap honoring the journey occurs at about 7:30 a.m., she said.

Mayberry said this year's event includes new activities, including a "Relay Garden," where attendees can go for quiet reflection away from the track.

Other activities will be available, including laser tag and hamster ball - additions Mayberry said were made to better incorporate youth participants.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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