The American Cancer Society Relay For Life in Ayer is a life-changing event that gives everyone in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost and fight back against the disease.

At Relay, teams of people camp out at Ayer-Shirley Regional High School and take turns walking or running around a track. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the 16-hour event symbolizing that cancer never sleeps, neither do we.

Everyone is encouraged to participate in Relay For Life, including friends, families, businesses, organizations, school students, college groups, churches and youth organizations, community groups and, most importantly, cancer patients and survivors.

Two out of five Americans will be diagnosed with cancer during their lives, and everyone will be touched by cancer at some point. By being a part of Relay For Life, you are not only raising money to fund the mission of the American Cancer Society but you are also helping to raise awareness of this disease.

What happens at Relay?

Opening ceremony: The fun starts from the very beginning! In the Opening Ceremony, chairpersons, speakers and community leaders set the pace for the American Cancer Society Relay For Life.

Cancer Survivor's Victory Lap: During the event, survivors take a "victory lap" around the track to the cheering and applause of all participants. Cancer survivors and their caregivers are invited to attend a celebratory reception as honored guests at 4 p.m. at Page Hilltop School. Survivors are encouraged to remain and enjoy the festivities throughout the event.

Luminaria Ceremony: It is during the Luminaria Ceremony that the true meaning of Relay For Life hits home. At dusk, the Luminaria, which are paper sacks with glowing candles placed inside of them, are placed around the track and lit for the remainder of the night. All participants then take a moment of silence to reflect on the people whose names are inscribed on the glowing tributes. It is a powerful testimonial as to why we do Relay For Life.

Fight Back Ceremony: During the Fight Back Ceremony, we make a personal commitment to save lives by taking up the fight against cancer. That personal commitment may be to do something as simple as getting a screening test, quitting smoking, or talking to elected officials about cancer. By taking action, people are personally taking steps to save lives and fight back against a disease that takes too much.

Closing Ceremony: The Closing Ceremony celebrates the accomplishments, success, and efforts of the committee, team captains, participants, donors and volunteers. Taking the final lap together is a proud moment for a community taking up the fight!

Entertainment and family fun is abundant at Relay. Activities include, theme laps, midnight bingo, 3 on 3 basketball, kickball tournament, and a DJ. And that's just the beginning! Relay has activities for all ages, to make finishing the fight against cancer exciting and fun.

Relay For Life raises funds to support the American Cancer Society mission of saving lives from cancer by helping people stay well, helping people get well, by finding cures, and by fighting back.

While fundraising for Relay For Life is fun and competitive, it is also crucial to continuing the mission of the American Cancer Society. Since the American Cancer Society's research program was started, more than $3.4 billion has been awarded to cancer researchers across the nation, including 44 who have gone on to win the Nobel Prize. Through Relay For Life, you make it possible for this lifesaving research, and all of the education, advocacy and service programs of the American Cancer Society to continue.

The Relay For Life of Ayer will take place on Friday, June 27, at 6 p.m. at the track at Ayer Shirley Regional High School. It's not too late to get involved! Join a team or start a new team today by visiting www.relayforlife.org/ayerma. We look forward to seeing you there as we finish the fight against cancer!

Katy Nowoswiat

Specialist, Relay For Life

American Cancer Society