The American Cancer Society's annual all-volunteer Relay for Life raises money for cancer research and support of cancer patients and their families. This year's theme is "Celebrate More Birthdays."
The East Lincoln Relay for Life had turtle races, prize drawings, music and food at its kickoff Jan. 9 at The Naked Oyster Co. Bar and Grill in Denver. Volunteers and teams signed up for the Relay.
Partygoers posed for photos with a race car bearing the Relay for Life logo parked in front of the restaurant, which will appear at the Relay in April.
Comp-Cal Inc. in Denver donated the use of the car and added the graphics. Brian Wittkamp, an owner of Comp-Cal, said he joined the Relay effort to be part of a community event, and as a way to honor his mother, who died of breast cancer.
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Susie Davis, a team captain for the CareMor Family Pharmacy team and coordinator of team registration for the East Lincoln chapter, calls her five-year involvement with Relay an "eye-opening experience."
She said many of her Denver pharmacy's customers are cancer patients. Her work has taught her about the process of fighting cancer, from undergoing treatment to buying a wig to locating support groups - "things you don't know about until you're in that position and hope someone will help you," she said.
One American Cancer Society support service is its network of Hope Lodges, where a cancer patient's family can stay if the treatment facility isn't near their home.
Another service, Road to Recovery, matches volunteer drivers with patients who cannot have no transportation to treatments. The ACS also hosts support networks for patients and survivors.
This year, for the first time, the East Lincoln Relay for Life will include teams made up of cancer survivors.
The survivors' lap, along with luminarias and photos honoring survivors and loved ones who died of cancer, are the most poignant aspects of the big night, said Jeanne Simmons, committee secretary for East Lincoln.
"The rest is just like a huge carnival," she said.
Nealy Woodring, whose grandparents battled cancer, is a co-captain for the CareMor team. She said the fun atmosphere of Relay has made it a success. After testing a different format last year, the East Lincoln Relay will return to the traditional all-night event. The overnight format, which most Relays use, signifies that the fight against cancer never rests.
So far, 17 teams are registered for the East Lincoln Relay April 30-May 1 at East Lincoln High School. Volunteers hope to get 35 teams and raise $135,000. Details: www.relayforlife.org/eastlincoln.