ALBANY -- The kickoff party for this year's Albany Relay for Life to fight cancer will be held on April 18 at Albany Bowl, 540 San Pablo Ave.
"We welcome back our teams and try to get them jazzed up for the new year," said Patrick Rosales, regional director for Relay for Life. "And tell (new participants) what relay is, try to get them engaged in the event."
Albany City Manager Beth Pollard added, "There will be a little bit of a program, we'll hear some stories from survivors. People will talk a little bit about why they're participating."
This year's relay, the third in Albany, will be held from 10 a.m. May 18 to 10 a.m. May 19 on the track at Cougar Field, 1259 Brighton Ave.
"I love this event," said Pollard, who has taken over as chair for the event this year. "Cancer has impacted so many people I work with, family and friends. This event not only raises funds to fight cancer, it's also a great community event. You walk around the track for a lap or two, and you meet people. It's a great way to get to know other Albany people."
Rosales said the kickoff party has three goals.
"We always invite our cancer survivors so they can sign up for the event," he said, adding that survivors do the first lap at the relay. In addition, "People can sign up either to create a team or join a team" or sign on as volunteers.
The Relay for Life began 28 years ago when Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon, came up with the idea to raise money for a local American Cancer Society office. An amateur marathon runner, Klatt spent 24 hours circling the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, covering 83 miles. Friends and family donated $25 apiece to run or walk for 30 minutes with Klatt. The event raised $27,000 for the local organization.
The next year, Klatt organized a team effort and raised $33,000. There are now more than 5,000 Relay For Life events around the country.
According to the Relay For Life page on Facebook, more than $4.5 billion has been raised in the fight against cancer. Events are also held in other countries through a licensing agreement with the American Cancer Society.
Teams volunteer to walk or run laps around the track, preferably for all 24 hours.
"You do not have to do all 24 hours, but it's encouraged," Pollard said. "The idea is cancer never sleeps."
All funds raised by the Relay go to the American Cancer Society to fight all types of cancer, rather than focus on a single type. The money goes to research, education, advocacy and services, Rosales said. For more information, go to relayforlife.org or call the American Cancer Society hotline at 800-227-2345.