By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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The festivities at the Clallam County Fairgrounds at 1608 W. 16th St. in Port Angeles will begin at 3 p.m. today with relay walkers making the first laps of the fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.
That will be followed by 24 hours of concerts, contests and plenty of food, ending at 3 p.m. Saturday.
The opening ceremony for the 2012 Relay For Life will be at 6 p.m., followed by the survivors' and caregivers' laps at 6:30 p.m.
No one is certain if 40 teams is a record for the entire 25-year history of the Port Angeles relay, but the organization is fairly certain the 371 individuals who registered for the walk is a record, said Debra West, Relay For Life committee chairwoman.
“We have so much more interest than in the past few years,” West said.
More than halfway
The teams have so far raised $44,209 — still $25,791 short of the relay goal of $70,000, West said.
Last year, 257 participants on 24 teams raised $56,000.
Almost half of the funds raised by the local relay stays local for the support of those fighting cancer, and about a third is used in cancer research.
In Western Washington, about 20 percent of funds goes to pay for insurance, venue rentals, supplies and administrative costs, but Port Angeles has been able to get that down to about 7 percent, West said.
Port Angeles got into Relay For Life early, she said.
The national Relay For Life organization began operations 27 years ago, with the Port Angeles group beginning its event only two years later, she said.
Any cancer survivor who registers at the event will receive a purple survivor's shirt and a medal, she said.
West has said she defines “survivor” as anyone who has ever received a diagnosis of cancer.
Teams earn money by holding pre-relay events and by gaining sponsors and pledges for laps.
Participants walk as many laps as possible, handing off a highly decorated “baton” to other teammates when they can't walk any farther.
'Magic of Relay'
This year, the theme for the event is “The Magic of Relay,” West said.
Teams often dress in team uniforms or costumes, which can be whacky or symbolic but fit the theme.
But the real show will be the highly decorated tents, where relay participants will conduct ongoing fundraising activities to raise more money for cancer research.
Events this year will include a “purple glove dance” and a dunk tank, with “coveted” dunk tank seats being auctioned off, she said.
A luminaria ceremony will be held at 11 p.m. Friday.
During a luminaria ceremony, candles are lit inside bags filled with sand, each one bearing the name of a person touched by cancer, and participants often walk a lap in silence.
“You do not have to be a member of a team to attend. Everyone is invited to participate and enjoy the music, food and activities,” West said.
The Port Angeles Relay For Life is the first on the North Olympic Peninsula.
The Port Townsend event will be July 28-29 at Memorial Field, Forks' will be Aug. 3-4 at Forks High School, and the Sequim Relay For Life will be Aug. 10-11 at Sequim High School.
To learn more about the Relay For Life of Port Angeles, visit www.relayforlifeofportangeles.org or phone the American Cancer Society at 800-227-2345.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at email@example.com.