This weekend, hundreds of citizens will come together for a high-profile annual event geared toward combating the scourge of cancer.

On Saturday and Sunday, the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life project will offer hope, provide support and raise funds to help find a way to put an end to this disease that claims far too many of our loved ones and friends.

Relay For Life is designed to symbolize the reality that “cancer never sleeps” by staging teams that camp out at the Washington County Fair Complex and — around the clock for 24 hours — team members take turns walking around a track. The 24-hour event raises funds through pledges as well as with a silent auction.

This year’s objective is to bring in 50 teams with a combined total of approximately 800 participants, and raise $150,000 in the process. The funds will go toward research, education, advocacy and patient services for those suffering from cancer.

The inaugural Relay For Life event began in Hillsboro in 2003, with a small handful of teams walking at the Hillsboro Stadium (the event was moved to the fairgrounds site in 2010 after it outgrew the stadium) and raising roughly $3,000. The efforts of these dedicated individuals helped build the groundwork for what Hillsboro’s Relay For Life has become 11 years later.

In addition to hundreds of people being there to walk and provide support for this important cause, hundreds of cancer survivors will be on hand, and at 10 p.m. Saturday evening, luminaria will be lit in memory of someone who has died from cancer or in support of someone who is battling cancer.

Last week, Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey opened the Hillsboro City Council meeting by proclaiming Saturday and Sunday, June 28 and 29, as “Relay For Life Days” in Hillsboro, and he urged residents to participate in the event.

Willey also introduced two selfless, devoted individuals — Relay For Life co-chairs Steve Atkinson and Mary Vander Yacht. Vander Yacht and Atkinson have become real champions in this cause, and their involvement has come at great personal cost: Steve was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer in 1986, when he was only 13, and doctors gave him just a 5 percent chance to live. His survival for nearly three decades since then is a tribute to the human spirit, and Steve’s story and his willingness to share it has become an inspiration to others facing terrible odds of survival.

Mary’s story is different, yet no less difficult. Although she herself has not been diagnosed with cancer, Mary’s family has suffered heavily: Mary’s mother died from colon and liver cancer, and one of Mary’s aunts died from breast cancer. Mary’s father is a survivor of stomach cancer.

The American Cancer Society estimates 1.7 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2014, and 586,000 Americans will die from the disease this year. These statistics clearly show that cancer has a major impact across the nation, and the costs — in lives as well as to our society as a whole — are immense. So the efforts of people like Steve Atkinson and Mary Vander Yacht, along with organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the many volunteers and supporters of events such as Relay For Life, help bring hope and strength to hundreds of thousands of people. The value and importance of their collective efforts cannot be overstated.

We encourage everyone to turn out this weekend to support Relay For Life and contribute to the vital goal of ending cancer.

Contract Publishing

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