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Relay For Life, the overnight fundraising walk, offers hope to cancer patients, survivors and their families. Funds raised go toward American Cancer Society that uses the money for cancer research. (Photo/Chris Graves)
Relay For Life, the overnight fundraising walk, offers hope to cancer patients, survivors and their families. Funds raised go toward American Cancer Society that uses the money for cancer research. (Photo/Chris Graves)

Cancer-Awareness Event Offers Hope and Support While Raising Research Funds

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Relay for Life is more than a walk. For some, it is a way to honor their loved ones. It has touched lives across the community: from people diagnosed with cancer to survivors.

Chris Graves, volunteer and committee member, found out her father had passed away from battling cancer the day she participated in her first Relay For Life. From that day, she has devoted her time and effort into making this event as big as it can be.

Graves began volunteering in 2010 and decided to become a committee member in 2013.

Graves’ involvement in Relay For Life is not just a job. It is a way for her to help others and share her experience.

“I think the biggest thing for me is this is the way I honor my father and any person that lost someone. It’s a way to get out there and do something about it,” she said. “Actually being out there is so different than just giving money.”

Graves is in charge of setting up teams, helping people who want to volunteer and helping businesses get teams together.

Graves noted that she has many special memories from Relay For Life that shows the impact it can have on people.

“The caregivers have T-shirts. And what we do is have the survivors and caregivers start at separate areas,” she said. “At the last event, when they met up at the finish, the caregivers gave their shirts to the survivors, and there wasn’t a dry eye on the field. It’s an awesome thing to see.”

Graves appreciated when her mother flew in from California to surprise her at one relay. She said it touched her heart to see how much her mother supported her and for her mother to see how she remembers her father.

The community benefits from Relay For Life in more ways than what participants seem to know. Sarah Rowe, a Relay For Life specialist, has volunteered for three years and is the American Cancer Society staff partner to five Relay for Life events in the Las Vegas area.

“My family, personally has been affected by cancer too many times and lost many loved ones to this terrible disease,” she said.

Rowe, like Graves, has many special memories from Relay For Life.

“The first lap at every Relay for Life event is the Survivor’s Lap,” she said. “It is so inspiring to see those who have fought and are still fighting cancer to walk around the track and know that because of the advances that have been made because of the American Cancer Society funded research, these and many more people around the world are surviving cancer and celebrating more birthdays.”

Students are able to be involved in many upcoming Relay For Life events. UNLV is hosting one on April 18. Many others occur throughout Las Vegas in April and May.

Kristal Hosaka, 21, said she has participated in four Relay For Life events since she was a high-school student.

“From my grandmother having bone and liver cancer to my dad having pancreatic cancer, I feel like there is a cure out there,” Hosaka said. “I participate to help raise money to find that cure.”

She said that her favorite memory is from last year’s event. Hosaka and a sorority sister were team leaders for their sorority team. She said that they participated because both of their fathers had experienced cancer. They wanted to work together to help raise funds to find the cure.

There are many ways to be involved in Relay For Life. Those interested do not necessarily have to have cancer or know someone who has it in order to participate. Many different organizations, individuals, families and businesses throughout the community combine their efforts toward making the event successful.

“Many charity events focus on just one certain type of cancer whereas Relay For Life focuses on it as a whole,” Hosaka said. “I participate in Relay For Life because I want to bring awareness to cancer.

For more information on cancer and Relay for Life events, visit: www.cancer.org.

 

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