Nearly 800 participants and a crowd as large as 5,000 are expected at the Relay for Life of Kent Friday and Saturday at French Field at Kent-Meridian High School.
Seventy-seven teams are registered for the 11th-annual event that raises money for the American Cancer Society to support cancer research.
“Our goal is $195,000,” said Winston Johnson, publicity chairman for the Relay for Life of Kent. “Last year, we raised $185,000.”
The 20-hour relay goes from 6 p.m. Friday until 2 p.m. Saturday.
Relay organizers, who are all volunteers, have had to fight the recession as they’ve worked to raise money through the event this year.
“The recession already kicked us,” Johnson said. “The last couple of years we have not made our goals. Our goal last year was $220,000. That’s one reason we only increased our goal by $10,000 this year rather than the usual 20 or 30 percent.”
Friends and relatives of the relay participants are expected to pack French Field at about 10 p.m. Friday for the Luminaria Ceremony of Hope. During the ceremony, paper bags containing lit votive candles are set out around the edge of the track. Each bears the name of a person fighting cancer, or a loved one lost to the disease. People then begin reading off the names from the luminaria.
“Everyone holds hands all the way around the interior of the field,” Johnson said. “We can get at least 3,000 people in there for that.”
Many of the funds raised will be spent on research in the state through the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, the Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Washington.
“We need to find a way to overcome this disease,” Johnson said. “The whole idea behind the relay is to raise money.”
Nearly $1.5 million has been raised by the Relay for Life of Kent in the event’s 10 years, Johnson said. More than $3 billion has been raised worldwide since the cancer society started Relay for Life 25 years ago.
Numerous volunteers help make the Kent relay a success.
“There are a lot of really dedicated volunteers,” Johnson said. “They put their lives on hold for about six or seven months to make it happen.”
The Relay for Life of Kent is the second-largest community event in the city next to the Kent Cornucopia Days, a three-day festival on July 10-12. It’s also one of the biggest Relay for Life events in King County.
The participating relay teams include members who camp out at French Field and take turns walking or running around the track.
Each team must have at least one representative on the track at all times throughout the 20 hours.
Sponsors of the Relay for Life of Kent include Valley Orthopedic Associates, the Kent School District, the Kent Lions Club, the Kent Reporter, Valley Medical Center and Group Health.
To sign up for a team or donate to the American Cancer Society through Relay for Life of Kent, go to www.rflkent.org. Donations will be accepted online after the event as well.
For more information about the American Cancer Society, visit www.cancer.org.