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Relaying a message of hope

Hundreds walk in annual event to raise money, awareness for cancer research

Posted: May 18, 2013 8:01 p.m.
Updated: May 18, 2013 8:01 p.m.

Two people watch as doves fly away from Central Park on Saturday. The doves were released as part of the American Cancer Society's annual "Relay for Life" event to raise money for cancer research.

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With a ceremony that was at times somber and celebratory, the Santa Clarita Valley’s annual Relay for Life event to raise money and awareness for cancer research kicked off Saturday morning in Central Park.

By 10 a.m. Sunday, hundreds of participants will have spent 24 hours walking around a makeshift track in one of the park’s fields to continue the march toward the eventual goal of curing cancer.

Relay for Life events are held regularly throughout the country and around the world, but the SCV event raises the most money in Southern California and the third-most of any such event in the state, said Brad Peach, a committee chairman for the local branch of the American Cancer Society.

Peach said 137 teams signed up to participate in the relay this year and the goal is to raise $500,000 for cancer research.

The event was also partly a remembrance of those involved with the American Cancer Society who had died in the past year. One such person, local resident and “Cancer Princess” Heather Warrick, was honored with a ceremony Saturday evening.

“The unfortunate part of being involved in this (the Relay for Life) is you’re going to lose friends,” Peach said. “But through the work we do you can make more birthdays.”

Candace Wells, a breast cancer survivor and regular Relay for Life participant, said she is always amazed to see the level of support for those affected by cancer.

“I tear up a little bit,” she said.

Saturday’s event coincided with the 100th anniversary of the formation of the American Cancer Society. David Veneziano, the chief executive officer of the society’s California division, said because of the work of the American Cancer Society and events like the Relay for Life, five-year cancer survival rates have improved from less than 10 percent a century ago to almost 70 percent today.

“Today two out of three people survive,” he said. “We want it three out of three.”

Veneziano also praised Santa Clarita’s rendition of the relay.

“As I came into the park this morning I said, this is not any ordinary park,” he said. “’Central Park’ has turned into ‘Relay Central Park’ for saving lives.”

The relay also provides an opportunity to help others, said Valencia High School freshman Sierra King, who has volunteered at the event for the past several years.

“You meet so many people and you see what they’ve gone through,” she said. “I like to hear all their stories.”

Lmoney@signalscv.com
661-287-5525
On Twitter @LukeMMoney

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