By Emily Grove-Davis

Herald Review Staff Writer

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Organizers for the Osceola County Relay for Life are busy preparing for the upcoming event dedicated to raising money and awareness for cancer.

The event will begin at noon on June 21 and wrap up at noon the next day.

Participants will gather at the Osceola County 4-H FFA fairgrounds, with members of each team taking turns walking, jogging or running around the track for 24 hours to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

More than $30,000 was raised last year for cancer advocacy, education, patient services and research, and this year organizers hope to top that.

“Our new goal is $35,000, which is bumped up because we met our goal of $30,000 last year,” Community Representative Mary Lynn Robertson said. “That doesn’t mean we will meet that this year, but we do anticipate growth and we hope to be able to do it.”

Robertson said this year is even more of a special event, as the American Cancer Society is celebrating its 100th birthday.

Along with raising money and awareness, Relay for Life celebrates survivors and caregivers, as well as remembers those who lost their battle with the disease by holding a luminary ceremony at 9 p.m. on Friday.

Melissa DeBoard, co-chair for Osceola County Relay for Life, has lost loved ones to cancer and said the luminary ceremony is very special for her.

“For me, the most heartfelt part is the luminary ceremony,” DeBoard said. “It’s the emotional part that brings it all together. I get to share my tears with everyone else, and then move on and have fun.”

DeBoard stressed that the event can be filled with joy while also paying tribute to loss and suffering.

Throughout the event, Relay for Life features many themed laps, such as the scavenger lap, pajama lap and various dance laps.

“It doesn't have to be this somber time filled with sadness because of what cancer is,” DeBoard said. “It can be a time to forget that pain and enjoy family and friends.”

Those interested in volunteering or registering a team can do so before the event or the day of. There is no minimum or maximum number of participants needed to make up a team.

“We’ve had a one-person team and we have area churches that have very large teams so someone is always on the track,” DeBoard said. “It can be as big or as small as you want because every dollar counts. It’s all about the fight.”

For more information on the Osceola County Relay for Life, contact Mary Lynn Robertson 231-645-5887 or mlrobertson@cancer.org. For more information on the American Cancer Society visit www.cancer.org.