This past weekend, the city of Warren hosted its annual Relay for Life event with more than 300 participants willingly volunteering their time and energy for a this very worthy cause. Talk about having some serious fun on a Friday night with a real significance to boot.
This year's Relay was held, as it has been for several years, in Warren's beautiful Courthouse Square. As a North Carolina resident, I enjoyed attending nearby Relay events and twice had the privilege of writing articles about them for local newspapers, but, in my biased opinion, Warren's is by far the best.
Relay for Life, ''the main volunteer-driven cancer fundraising event of the American Cancer Society'' began in 1985 in Tacoma, Wash., by Dr. Gordon Klatt who decided to walk around a track for 24 hours to raise money for his patients. This now global association has spread to 21 countries and is always an exciting and poignant experience, especially to those whose lives have been personally touched by cancer.
Nearly 4 million people participate in annual Relay events across the United States. It is an event that celebrates the lives of those who have won their battle with cancer while remembering those who were not as fortunate. This year there were more than 300 participants in the Warren event.
My family has been affected by this dreadful disease too many times for us to not earnestly and solemnly participate each May when Relay time rolls around. The definite Relay champions in my family's fight against cancer are my sister, Theresa, and brother-in-law, Ron. They have been active participants in Relay for Life for many years, and last Friday marked their third year as the Harding High School Marching Band's Relay team advisers.
Prior to the band team, they participated in Relay teams with several other organizations. It makes me very proud to see them give their all every year in an effort to raise awareness and funding for the fight against cancer.
If you have yet to experience a Relay for Life event, it is, in my opinion, most assuredly worth your time to attend. With its slogan of ''Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back,'' Relay is centered on a walking track of some sort and, in Warren's case, the four streets that surround the courthouse are blocked off for that purpose. Team booths are set up all around the square and hundreds of people spend an entire day praying, walking, dancing, remembering, fundraising and spending time with others whose lives have been touched by cancer.
There's always something to do at a Relay event throughout the evening and into the next afternoon, even at 3 a.m. Fun activities are planned and area musicians provide music. There are also themed laps around the track like the ''survivors lap,'' the ''three legged lap'' and the ''silent lap,'' during which the track is walked in silence in remembrance of those who've succumbed to the disease. Luminaries that have been purchased in remembrance of loved ones are placed around the track and lit at nightfall to light the path for walkers throughout the evening.
There's also plenty of delicious food, late-night snacks such as baked goods and popcorn, T-shirts and many more items for sale with the proceeds being donated to the American Cancer Society. Several booths sell raffle tickets for gift baskets filled with lots of wonderful items and the dunking booth is always a big ''hit.''
At the close of the event, a ''Fight Back Ceremony'' is often held as a pledge for participants to ''take action and spread awareness of cancer research, treatments and prevention.''
Start making plans now to attend next year's Relay for Life. It is an inspiring event that you won't soon forget.
Weatherman is a Trumbull County resident.