SMC — Santa Monica’s annual Relay for Life will bring hundreds of locals to Santa Monica College (SMC) on July 26 for a 24-hour fundraiser to support cancer research and patient services.

The event supports the American Cancer Society and during the relay, teams walk a path for a full 24-hours. While one individual walks, their teammates camp out near the track and engage in fundraising, community building, education and entertainment related activities.

The Santa Monica event will begin at 10 a.m. on July 26 with an Opening Ceremony to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer. The first lap, known as the Survivors’ Lap, will begin at 10:30 a.m. with the cancer survivors walking to the cheers of supporters. At 9 p.m. there will be a Luminaria Ceremony to remember people lost to cancer and support those who are currently diagnosed. There is a “Fight Back” event at 9 a.m. on July 27 to represent commitment to fighting the disease full time and there will be a closing ceremony at 10 a.m.

There are about 5,000 relays around the country and according to the American Cancer Society, more than 4 million people in over 20 countries participate in the event annually. It is the organization’s largest fundraiser but it also acts as an opportunity to educate residents about cancer and the services provided by the American Cancer Society.

Jessica Partida is a specialist working on Relay For Life for the American Cancer Society and she said the organization is the largest source of private financing into cancer research. She said the group has invested more than $3 billion since its founding in 1946. The group has been involved in funding many significant advances in cancer treatment and they also provide support to cancer patients.

Services include transportation to and from treatment, peer support for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients, education and supplies for cancer patients who have aesthetic related complications, lodging for families staying with a patient and an online education resource. Patients can call 800-227-2345 to receive advice and guidance about cancer and services that are free to patients.

Partida said individuals who may not have a personal connection to a cancer patient benefit from the event’s public outreach campaign and once educated, are then in a better position to support someone if they do receive a cancer diagnosis.

“If it should fall on someone or happen to someone you know, you have this information you can pass along to your friend or coworker,” she said. “You know there is someone to turn to in a dark time.”

She said individual communities ask to host Relays and the events are organized by a dedicated group of community volunteers.

“What people need to understand about Relay for Life is that it’s volunteer led and staff supported,” said Partida. “It’s put on by members of the Santa Monica Community that live and work in the area.

Alicia Younger is one of the volunteers working on this year’s event. She said the Survivors’ lap is one of the most powerful moments for anyone involved. During the lap, walkers wear matching purple shirts and medals presented to them by Relay volunteers. She said the event is inspirational to everyone involved.

“My favorite part hands-down is the survivor lap right at the beginning of the event,” she said. “I think it’s about the camaraderie, seeing all the people out at once supporting the same cause. It’s really a touching, heartfelt event. It’s upbeat and celebratory but all that money is going towards a really great cause.”

There are currently 19 teams signed up to walk in Santa Monica. Each team sets its own fundraising goals and undertakes its own fundraising projects. Some teams are working on soliciting money in advance of the relay while others will conduct fundraising projects on site during the event. Partida said all the money raised goes towards helping cancer patients either by supporting research into prevention and cures or by supporting patient services.

Julia Miele is team caption for the Rotary Rockets and said the club has been involved with the event for more than a decade. While it’s her first time as team captain, she said she is familiar with the event through her past work with ACS and through personal experience.

“My mother died of cancer and my father has been diagnosed,” she said. “It’s affected me personally for many, many years. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to support the society, they provide a lot of patient advocacy and support services that help patients navigate through the system.”

Said the Luminaria ceremony is her favorite part of the relay.

“If you go and you’ve not personally experienced (cancer), you’re going to know people who have or whose loved ones have and you’ll see the impact that the ceremony has on people,” she said.

Miele said holding the event in Santa Monica shows the commitment of local residents to the cause.

“It really does bring home the fact that cancer is huge in our community,” she said. “It’s a very community focused event, it’s not a humongous L.A. thing, this is very personal. The events take on the personality of the community so those that have never experienced cancer can get a good idea of what cancer has done to the community,”

The 2014 Relay for Life will be held at Santa Monica College’s Corsair Field, located at the southwest corner of the SMC campus, on 16th Street between Pearl Street and Pico Boulevard.

“SMC is extremely honored to be able to host and support the Santa Monica Relay For Life for the 12th year,” said Tony Prestby, SMC’s liaison for the event. “Our college and the community have lost several heroes to this devastating disease, and we are proud to be doing our part in the fight against cancer.”

For more information, including instructions for starting a team or donating to Relay for Life, visit http://www.relayforlife.org, http://www.relayforlife.org/santamonicaca or contact santamonicarelayforlife@gmail.com.

 

matt@smdp.com

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