SALEM - Cancer never sleeps and neither will participants in the Relay for Life at Waterworth Memorial Park, which begins at 5:45 p.m. Friday and continues through the night and sunrise into Saturday afternoon.
"It symbolizes a day in the life of a cancer patient," Salem Relay for Life Chair Stephanie Shelton said.
The annual event will kick off with opening ceremonies, then survivors will walk the first lap - a symbolic trek to demonstrate how they're fighting the disease which affects so many.
For those who don't know, teams of participants spend nearly 24 hours at the relay, with team members taking turns walking around an oval path so that someone is continuously walking. Shelton said the dark period at night represents the diagnosis of cancer and the fight of the cancer patient. The sunrise represents the hope and promise for recovery.
Shelton's mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer twice and she's known a lot of family members who have been stricken. She recalled during a training session where she works, she asked all those in the room who have known someone diagnosed with cancer to stand up. Not one person remained seated.
This will be her second year as the chair for the Salem event. During her first year, they raised $70,000 and this year their goal is to raise $75,000. She said it seems to be getting better every year.
An estimated 300 to 400 people will take part with 18 teams so far, which is three more teams than last year and a lot of new teams.
"We just keep on trying to raise more money for the programs. We're trying to get more people educated on what the relay is about," she said.
All the money raised goes to cancer research, advocacy for cancer patients and programs for patients. One such program is the Road to Recovery program which started this past year in Columbiana County, providing trained drivers to transport cancer patients to and from treatments. Patients can call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 for more information.
Shelton said they wanted to get the community as involved as possible in the relay and get more people to come to the relay. Word of mouth gets a lot of people involved or a new diagnosis of cancer, but she said they do a lot of recruiting, too. At least eight companies from the area have teams, with most teams in the relay representing family and friends of people stricken by cancer.
The theme this year is a luau for life. They'll have a DJ for continuous music, a bounce house for kids and lots of activities, such as scavenger hunts, a version of Minute to Win It, frozen pineapple bowling, zumba and cornhole on Saturday and a version of Fear Factor. A food vendor will be available, but she said a lot of teams bring in food to sell in an effort to make more money.
She also said anyone is invited to come down to see the relay. Donations will be accepted on site. Closing ceremonies will take place at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.