The annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life is much more than a walk around a track.

“It’s local people taking care of local people ... joining together for a common cause,” said Marion County Relay co-chair Emily Capelle.

This year’s event is set for June 9-10 at Fairmont State’s Duvall-Rosier Field. The opening ceremony will be held at 6 p.m. that Friday, followed immediately by the survivors’ victory lap, and the event concludes at 6 a.m. the next day.

“The Relay is the signature fund-raising event ... the big one ... for the ACS that raises money for research, support groups and money to help provide cancer patients with whatever their needs are,” Capelle said.

All money teams raise that night (“whether you’re taking a chance on a quilt or buying cotton candy,”) goes to the ACS, she said.

She emphasized that the walk is for everyone, not just for cancer patients, family and friends.

“If you’ve never been to the Relay before, we definitely want you to come just to see the passion that these people form together.

“You’ll see a whole football field of people who care about people they don’t even know,” she said.

“I would be extremely shocked if someone were not associated with somebody with cancer. It affects so many.”

Nearly 3,000 people show up each year to what Capelle called “a family event.” Up to 200 cancer survivors walk in the victory lap “in honor of being with us this year, of being a survivor.”

“To some, it means hope and bravery. And for some, it’s just another day to be thankful they’re with their families.”

Each year, she looks for — and finds — familiar faces in this first segment of the Relay.

“You get to know them. They become part of your family. Now I have a huge family tree. The survivors’ lap is a big thing.”

That lap and the lighting of the luminaries are the highlights of the Relay.

At dusk, luminaries will be lit in memory or honor of cancer patients. Perched on football field bleachers, they’ll spell out the word “hope.”

Luminaries may be purchased the day of the Relay, she said.

“It is absolutely moving ... something you don’t want to miss. The whole Relay is one of the most positive things you can experience,” she said.

“Cancer is a terrible, terrible disease. We need people dealing with it to know they’re not by themselves. If they’re not able to fight, there’s a whole community behind them.”

Fireworks, sponsored by Conley CPA Group, will light up the late Friday night sky, she said.

“Come be part of the family,” she said. “You’ll come away with two things: a smile on your face and a tear in your eye.”

For more information about Relay for Life, page Capelle at 987-4566.

E-mail Debra Minor Wilson at dwilson@timeswv.com.

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