KINGMAN - While it's still several months away, the Kingman arm of the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life fundraising event officially kicked off this year's season with the annual Power of Purple Day Saturday at Locomotive Park.
This year's relay coordinator, Katherine "Kat" Fish, said the fundraising is already off to a great start, with 24 relay teams already having raised more than $1,000 apiece.
"We made $100,000 in Kingman last year, and we had 1,200 participants, which was amazing," Fish said. "Our goal last year was somewhere around $65,000 to $70,000, and we met that well before the actual relay."
The titular relay will begin at 6 p.m. on June 5, where members from each relay team will begin a 12-hour walk around the new track at Kingman High School, 4182 Bank St. The relay is designed as an all-night walk because, Fish said, "cancer never sleeps."
An event which now draws millions of supporters from around the globe, Relay For Life got its start in 1985, when a Tacoma, Wash.-based doctor walked around the track at the University of Puget Sound for 24 hours, with friends paying $25 apiece to walk or run alongside him for half-hour stretches. The money raised - $27,000 in total - was donated to the American Cancer Society, and the rest, as they say, was history.
Today, "Relay" brings in millions of dollars for cancer research, prevention, detection and patient support programs. It also serves as a way to bring both communities and those affected by the disease together through events such as the Luminaria ceremony, where lighted paper bags serve as reminders of those who lost their lives to cancer. Relayers also often hold special laps around the track, such as a Survivors' Lap, for those who have won their battle with the disease.
But even those who have won the battle know that the war never really ends. That's why this year, Fish is looking for at least 175 local cancer survivors to help open the event. Participating survivors will each be given a gift bag and will also have the privilege of participating in the Survivors' Dinner following the relay kickoff.
Fish said it's often up to individual relay teams to raise their funds, with each member setting a minimum goal of $100. Some raise their funds by simply asking friends to donate, while other teams do food sales, auctions and other special events.
"One team held a golf tournament in the fall that raised over $2,000, which was enough to cover each member of the team," Fish said. "Some of these teams get really creative."
The teams also receive support and funding from numerous sponsors, which this year include Kingman Regional Medical Center, Wal-Mart, Brackett Aircraft, North Country Health Care, Manglesdorf Family Dentistry and Swire Coca-Cola. All 24 local teams will be getting together starting at 7 a.m. April 10 in the Frontier Communications parking lot at 3124 Stockton Hill Road for an all-day yard sale. Fish said her goal this year is to break last year's fundraising record by at least $5,000.
Currently, the local Relay For Life has 310 participants among its two dozen teams. It's a far cry from last year's record 64 teams, but with three months to go before the relay itself, Fish said there's still plenty of time for those interested to get involved by either joining an existing team, starting their own, or just helping by sending in a donation or becoming a sponsor.
For more information, call Fish at (928) 530-2711 or visit the Kingman Relay For Life Web site at www.kingmanrelay.com.