Battling Cancer One Step at a Time

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Participants march in the Relay for Life Azusa 2013. Susie VanderLoop/Relay for Life Azusa

The American Cancer Society will be hosting its annual Relay for Life fundraiser on April 29 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Northside Park in Azusa. The event brings cancer survivors as well as those currently battling cancer together to exercise for a good cause.

Relay for Life has blossomed into a nationwide organization since its humble beginnings.  It was founded in May 1985 by Dr. Gordan Klatt in an attempt to raise money for the American Cancer Society, an organization created to increase cancer awareness. Klatt spent 24 hours walking and running over 83.6 miles around a track in Tacoma, Washington, and raised $27,000.

His actions led to an organized event the following year with more than 19 teams participating. Today, Relay for Life holds more than 5,000 events in over 20 countries, and the organization has raised over $5 billion for patients and groundbreaking research.

Relay for Life does more than raise money. It brings people and communities together for a common cause.  Azusa resident Susan VanderLoop knows too well the deep-set roots Relay for Life has in her community.  

VanderLoop has been involved with the organization for the past seven years and is currently the event chair member.

Putting the event together is a lot of hard work and planning,” VanderLoop said. “We have a committee of volunteers and we all join in, work together and get it done. Through this, you meet new people, make new friends and make lots of memories.”

“But I think my favorite part is meeting the survivors. Talking to them, listening to their stories, laughing and crying with them, and seeing how much Relay means to them. At the end of the day, it makes all the long hours you put in well worth it,” she added.

Money collected from Relay for Life events goes to fund new cancer research and free programs designed to help patients and their families during difficult times. One of these programs is the Look Good Feel Better program, which helps teach people in active cancer treatment ways to help them with appearance-related side effects.

The Road to Recovery program offers free assistance getting to and from treatments, and the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge program provides free overnight lodging to cancer patients and their caregivers who have to travel away from home for treatment.

According to VanderLoop, last year alone they had about 300 Azusa residents participate, and the event brings people from all walks of life together in unity to help one another.

Local businesses will also be lending a hand in this year’s relays. California Metro Patrol, a locally-owned security company, will be on hand to provide support to the much-anticipated event.

“Anyone can volunteer at Relay for Life by visiting Relayforlife.org to find an event near you,” VanderLoop said. “Relay can be a very rewarding experience and also very heartbreaking.  It is a day of many emotions – happy, sad, frustrated, etc. You laugh and cry the whole time.”

Relay for LIfe Azusa will take place Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Northside Park in Azusa. For more information, visit the event’s website.