CARLSBAD — When Cristina Werner attended her first Relay for Life event 13 years ago, she found the all day, all night walking event moving and a fun way to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
“I was so touched by the event,” she said. “For the survivors that come, it may give them another six months more to fight.”
Werner, along with her husband and three children kept participating every year, even though at the time she did not have any family members who had had cancer.
But the event took on new meaning as over the years she lost her father and most recently her sister to cancer.
Now for her, the most important aspect of Relay for Life is, “to know that you’re not the only one. Your family is not the only one that has lost that spot to cancer,” said Werner, who will be participating in Carlsbad’s Relay this year.
As much as Carlsbad’s local Relay for Life is a fundraiser — and a successful one at that raising over $55,000 last year — the event is more an opportunity for community members to join forces against a disease that has affected so many.
“No matter who you meet, someone’s been touched by cancer,” said Dave Mills, this year’s chair for the Carlsbad Relay.
Like other communities worldwide, Carlsbad sponsors an annual Relay for Life, which involves teams camping overnight to take turns walking around a track. Funds raised by the event go to the American Cancer Society for cancer treatment and research.
The eighth annual Carlsbad Relay for Life will take place July 27 at the Valley Middle School track and field.
So far, 237 participants have raised nearly $49,500 for Carlsbad’s Relay this year.
“I want (cancer) to end in my lifetime. I don’t want anyone to have to go through what I went through or what my mom went through,” said Mills, who lost his mother to pancreatic cancer in 2003.
He has walked in Carlsbad’s Relay with his daughters for the past seven years, as part of a team made up of dads and daughters from the Indian Princess Adventure Guides program from the local YMCA.
His team, Sioux Crew, has raised more than $9,500 so far towards their $16,000 goal. He anticipates that the team will be able to achieve their goal thanks to one last fundraiser before the Relay event.
Mills said he raises money every year by asking family, friends, and coworkers for donations.
“Five dollars or $500, I don’t care. I have to be shameless in doing this because cancer doesn’t discriminate,” he said.
He hopes that in the future, Relay for Life will be a signature event for the city to bring the community together and raise even more money.
“It’s one day where I get to learn about (cancer), I get to hear people’s stories and it’s just a really good way to bring the community together around the cause,” he said.
The event recognizes cancer survivors by opening with a survivor lap and during the night includes a luminaria ceremony to remember those who have lost their lives to cancer.
“Having a personal connection to cancer, (Relay) gives you the opportunity to reflect and it’s pretty emotional,” said Steve Baker, who is a member of Sioux Crew.
He has lost multiple family members to cancer, and both of his sisters are cancer survivors.
“I think (Carlsbad’s Relay for Life) reinforces that we are in a wonderful community and that people are here to make differences,” he said.
For more information or to donate funds to the Carlsbad Relay for Life, visit main.acsevents.org/site/TR?fr_id=48821&pg=entry