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Relay for Life Raises Money for Cancer Research

People Walking at Relay for Life











Nearly $100,000 raised. Thirty-six teams. Approximately 300 participants.

If the numbers tell the story, then the story is that the fight against cancer is alive at Johns Hopkins University’s Montgomery County Campus. The campus, for the first time, hosted the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life – Rockville event, a fundraiser that brought together hundreds of cancer survivors, their families, community members, elected officials and others who wanted to show their support in the battle against this disease. (photo gallery)

“Together, we’re making a difference,” said Nancy Coulter, chairwoman of Relay for Life. “Together, we will finish the fight.”

Relay for Life began in Tacoma, Wash., in 1986 and is now an international movement. Locally, Relay for Life is in its 20th year. Relay is one of the major fundraising events for the American Cancer Society; Johns Hopkins University’s Montgomery County Campus was among the sponsors this year.

Throughout the event, teams of participants walked around a track, or, in the case of the Montgomery County Campus, the front parking lot. The event, which started in the afternoon, continued overnight because, as organizers say, “cancer never sleeps.”  

The fundraiser started with a reception for cancer survivors and caregivers. Then, participants gathered outside for the opening ceremony, followed by a survivors lap around the parking lot. Music matched the mood, with songs such as “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child played by the disc jockey.

Those who stayed overnight pitched camp tents. A silent auction helped raise additional money throughout the course of the event. After nightfall, a luminaria ceremony was held: candles were lit inside white bags, which lined the site. Donors purchased bags to honor or remember loved ones who have battled cancer.

Rockville City Councilman Tom Moore urged participants to remember their loved ones, celebrate the strength of survivors and feel proud when seeing cancer survivors.

“Feel proud of yourself for helping them in their battle,” Moore said. “We are working toward a world with less cancer and more birthdays.”

Lillian Cruz, deputy director of constituent services for U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, told participants about her own battle with cancer. She said she recently celebrated her third year cancer free.  Van Hollen, Cruz said, will continue to seek federal funding for the National Institutes of Health. Cutting funding, she said, would impede research and lead to job cuts.

Coulter said she was encouraged by the strong fundraising efforts by the Rockville Relay for Life teams. The ultimate goal of such events, she said, is to raise money and “create more birthdays.”

“Look around at all our purple shirts,” Coulter said. “They are our survivors.”