Relay For Life


The American Cancer Society is one of the biggest contributors in the world to finding a cure for cancer. Relay for Life is their biggest community based fundraising event, which is held in over 5,000 locations worldwide each year. It is an organized, overnight community fundraising walk. Everyone joins a team and camps out around the track. Team members take turns walking around the track for a total of 24 hours. Food, games and activities are provided for entertainment.

Australia, Ireland, Japan, South Africa and Malaysia are some of the other countries that host events in addition to the United States. The mission for these events is to raise funds to improve cancer survival rates, decrease the incidence of cancer, and improve the quality of life for cancer patients and their caretakers. A volunteer committee undertakes the majority, if not all, of the planning for each event.

There are three important features to a Relay for Life event: the survivor dinner and lap, the luminaria ceremony, and the fight back ceremony.

The Survivor Dinner & Lap

A cancer survivor, according to the American Cancer Society, is anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer. All survivors and their caretakers are invited to a catered dinner prior to the event that is donated by a local restaurant and served by volunteers. After the dinner all survivors and their caretakers head out to the track to begin the event. The members of the community surround the survivors at the starting line to show their support and the survivors make the first lap to start off the event.

The Luminaria Ceremony

At every event, participants remember those that have lost their battle to cancer and celebrate the survivors. However, while this ceremony honors both, it is targeted towards remembering those lost. You purchase a bag, write the person’s name that you are honoring on it and decorate however you want. A candle is placed inside the bag and lit when the ceremony is about to begin. The bags line the track and sometimes, if there are enough, are used to spell out a word, such as HOPE.

The Fight Back Ceremony

Towards the end of the event the Fight Back Ceremony takes place. Oftentimes an American Cancer Society representative will speak at this point in the event. At this time participants pledge to take action and spread awareness of cancer research, treatments, and prevention.
To learn more about the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life visit