Garrett Estrada Photo Cancer survivors walked the first lap around Broadbent Park Friday night to kick off the 18-hour Relay for Life cancer fundraiser.

Garrett Estrada Photo
Cancer survivors walked the first lap around Broadbent Park Friday night to kick off the 18-hour Relay for Life cancer fundraiser.

The annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life in Ely raised more than $75,000 for cancer research with its 18-hour walk around Broadbent park from Friday evening through Saturday afternoon. The event drew hundreds of local participants to the park to join in the endurance walk for a cure.

The first lap around the park was taken ceremoniously by cancer survivors. Carrying a banner in front of them that read “Survivors — Celebrating Life,” the group marched around the park in a statement that represented their winning battle against the deadly disease. Many walked with family or friends, hands clasped. The lap was just the first of hundreds more circled around the park. The walk is meant to represent the fight against cancer, beginning in the dark and to push through the exhaustion to make it to the eventual sunrise.

“At around three in the morning you’ll be tired, but you know that the end is in sight, much like the survivors undergoing their treatment,” Survivor Chair Kaylene McVicars read before the event began.

Many participants set up booths around the inner ring of the lap, some selling concessions to help raise money. Others camped out under the stars in tents and took turns walking laps. The turnout, which is listed as 395 on the Relay’s official website saw even more unregistered participants looking to find ways of helping. Lisa Harrison, a participant in the Relay, said she became involved because she knows just how it  feels to have family stricken by cancer.

“My grandma had cancer, my uncle was recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer and I have another family member who is living with brain cancer,” Harrison said.

Her story was one of the many that were were shared in the communal gathering. Most in attendance knew someone who had passed away or who was currently fighting the disease. For Virginia Baker, she walked in the Relay in remembrance of her brother, who passed away from cancer at 62 years old.

“It is such a wonderful thing that we can help raise money to try and fight this disease,” Baker said. “My whole remaining family came from different parts of California and further so we could walk together.”

Event Coordinator Christina Sawyer said the event went “really smoothly” and credited the planning committee’s experience in putting on the Relay in years past in helping make sure the whole thing went off without a hitch.

“I think it was extremely successful,” Sawyer said. “Participation on Friday night was very high, it was elbow to elbow on the field.”

She noted the amount raised is expected to continue increasing to around $80,000 as teams finish with their various fundraisers. The accounting on the money donated doesn’t actually close until Aug. 31. Sawyer said the event raised $83,000 last year so they are right on target to get close to that again.

Before any laps were walked, the American Cancer Society threw a free dinner for cancer survivors  at the Elks Lodge.