One of the largest fundraisers for the American Cancer Society in Southern California, the Relay For Life, is taking over Central Park this weekend.
If you think that’s an exaggeration, just try to find a parking space.
The volunteer-run event started in 1985 at Canyon High School, where dozens of teams put up tents in the football infield and walked around the track. It quickly outgrew the school field and moved to College of the Canyons and a few years ago, found a home at Central Park.
One hundred thirty five teams – groups ranging from families, friends and co-workers of cancer patients, service clubs, ASBs from area high schools, local businesses offering services, health-oriented groups out to educate – will fill the playing fields with colorful tents. Games, crafts, services, gifts and opportunity drawings will be conducted with every penny going to ACS programs. At night, those pop-ups will become campsites where walkers will rest between legs of the 24-hour walk that goes through the evening, a testament to Relay’s belief that cancer never sleeps.
The “track” that walkers will circle throughout the day and night winds through the tents will be filled with an anticipated 2,000 registered walkers who have spent the last few months garnering pledges and donations from friends and businesses. Many teams have held fundraisers throughout the year; restaurant nights, jewelry sales or other ways to raise more money and keep this Relay at the top of the Southland’s list.
The day begins with a Survivor Lap, where purple-shirted walkers take the first turn around the track. The rest of the walkers join in after they complete their lap and the walking continues until 9 a.m. Sunday morning.
Throughout the day, visitors – they’re expecting 2,000 people, thus the parking issue – will come through the event, playing games, listening to entertainment in “John Parker Plaza” (named after a former Relay entertainment organizer and blues man who died of cancer a few years ago), or walking alongside friends in support of the cause.
At dark, thousands of white paper bags – luminarias – will line the track. Filled with sand and holding candles, the bags bear the names of those lost to cancer and those still fighting. For a $10 donation, people can dedicate, and decorate, a bag in memory or in honor of someone who is a survivor or currently dealing with cancer.
Andrea Vibe will provide music for the luminaria ceremony, which will start at 9 p.m. The emotional ceremony is a way to remember and commemorate loved ones and serves as a reminder that there are few, if any, people in our community who have not been touched by cancer.
Attending Relay for Life is free, but keep in mind that donations are hoped for. For more information about Santa Clarita Valley’s Relay for Life, go to www.scvrelay.org .