Thousands of people will lace up their walking shoes and walk down a pathway lined with candle-lit luminaries to remember those who have survived or lost their battles with cancer this weekend at the Grape Festival Grounds.
The 10th annual Relay for Live, a 24-hour walk, will start at 9 a.m. today. More than 40 teams have held fundraisers throughout the year and will have booths at the event to raise money. All of the proceeds go to the American Cancer Society to support research and programs to help those battling the disease.
The event is community-based, family-friendly and organized completely by volunteers, event chairman Mark Anaforian said. The focus is on giving hope to those who have cancer or who have battled it in the past.
"We want to do something to either stop cancer, or at the very least keep it at bay," he said. "We have all been affected by it, and we want to make sure no other family has to go through the same thing."
One of the main goals is to honor the survivors and give them a fun event to connect with other survivors, Anaforian said.
"It speeds up the healing process and makes it more palatable to know someone else has gone through what they've gone through," he said.
Survivors receive a free T-shirt, breakfast and lunch at the event. There will be activities at Survivor Village throughout the day, including a mocktail competition, bunco and bingo.
The event kicks off with the Celebrate Ceremony at 9 a.m. and then the survivor lap at 9:30 a.m. Every hour, there are theme laps. At 9 p.m., there is the Remember Ceremony where the luminaries are lit and glow around the track.
Mayor JoAnne Mounce, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011, will be the survivor speaker. Mounce was cancer-free after four months of treatment.
"If we all look at our friends and family, we all know somebody who lost a loved one or who has battled cancer," she said. "This is one way to honor those who they love, those who they lost and those who fight every day."
Another unique aspect of this year's event is a rally in support of Proposition 29, a state initiative to raises taxes on cigarettes by $1 a pack. The American Cancer Society drafted the initiative, and the money will be used to fund life-saving research, Anaforian said.
"Smokers eat up a lot of health care costs with cancer and emphysema. This is another way to fight back," he said.
It is important to keep pushing events like Relay, Anaforian said, because they have made a significant difference in the fight against cancer. Twenty years ago, if someone received a cancer diagnosis, they started to "get their affairs in order," Anaforian said.
But now people know there is treatment available.
"Because of the hard work from people not only in Lodi but the world, there are survivors here. When someone finds out they have cancer, they know they can fight it," he said.