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The Madison and Iron County Relay for Life will hold its fundraising event for the 22nd year this Saturday from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Kelly A. Burlison Middle School.

Event Lead April Sarakas said this year's theme is western and the group has decided to "Give Cancer the Boot!" She said most teams have chosen a western building to use for their campsite.

"We have 340 registered survivors for this year's Relay," Sarakas said. "We have a wonderful group of people on our Survivor Committee. They work very hard every year to reach out to newly-diagnosed cancer patients in our area, so we can get them registered."

Sarakas said the Madison and Iron County Relay for Life has been awarded the Power of Hope Award, a nationwide recognition for its number of registered survivors, for the past 4 out of 5 years and hopes to continue receiving it every year.

Thirteen teams have spent the year fundraising trying to reach the group goal of $34,000 raised.

Some of the upcoming fundraisers will include Raffle to Panama City Beach, Cruisin Away Cancer, Tug-of-war, BINGO, food for sale and a large silent auction.

Sarakas said the event will still begin with the annual survivor lunch from noon to 2 p.m. in the cafetorium. Then the event will go straight into the opening ceremony where survivors will take the first lap and introduce themselves. Also, continuing this year will be a lap for the family and caregivers.

Luminaries will be sold throughout the day with sales ending at 8 p.m. The luminaria ceremony will feature the reading of names by Katy McCutcheon, Keith DeSpain, David Lewis and Bob Mooney.

Sarakas said, on behalf of the American Cancer Society Volunteers, she would like to thank everyone who helped or contributed to the event in any way.

"Relay for Life is a chance for communities to recognize and celebrate those who have overcome cancer or are undergoing treatment, as well as the people who care for them," Sarakas said. "Relay also provides an opportunity to celebrate the memory of loved ones lost to cancer."

Sarakas said the ultimate goal is to find a cure for cancer through research. She said the American Cancer Society's mission is to save lives, celebrate lives, and lead the fight for a world without cancer.

"My entire event leadership team strives hard each and every year to make Relay bigger and better," Sarakas said. "We all have many different reasons as to why we Relay, but ultimately we want to help find a cure for cancer."

Sarakas said the opening survivor lap each year makes her heart swell with pride to know that they are making a difference.

"To see more and more survivors each year attending Relay keeps me pushing forward," Sarakas said. "Then hearing how our local survivors are using the American Cancer Society programs just makes our fundraising dollars that much more special."

For more information about the Relay, contact April Sarakas at 573-747-6690.

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Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@democratnewsonline.com

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