Staff file photo. Cancer survivors Gail Anderson, of Litchfield, front left, and her friend Pam Blethen of Derry, next to her at right, cheer their years being cancer-free during the opening ceremony of last year’s Relay for Life held in Derry.

DERRY — It's almost time for the Relay For Life of Greater Derry/Londonderry.

Anyone who has ever Relayed knows that the difference between a great event and a good one depends on the weather. But, come rain or shine, on Friday, June 22, at 6 p.m. at the Pinkerton Academy Track, more than 700 people will gather to celebrate, remember, and fight back at this year's Relay For Life of Greater Derry/Londonderry.

Planning for the event began back in late fall of last year, with committee members working behind the scenes for months to secure sponsorships, connect with many local businesses for donations, and reach out to the community in an effort to educate people about the event.

Mary Anderson, headmaster at Pinkerton Academy, will be this year's honorary chairwoman.

One of the main purposes of the American Cancer Society Relay For Life is to celebrate the survivors living right in our neighborhoods, or working down the hall, sitting at the next desk, or playing on the school playground.

Many people wonder if they have to "beat" cancer to be considered a survivor. At Relay, you are a survivor from that life-changing minute your doctor tells you your diagnosis. That is when your fight begins and that is when you are celebrated for your strength.

Currently, 65 survivors have registered to participate at this year's Relay event, but committee members are hoping that more survivors will sign up to join in celebrating their own and others' journeys through cancer. This year's survivor's dinner will be provided by Amphora.

Another special moment at the Relay For Life event is the luminaria ceremony. All of the white luminaria bags that have been decorated in memory or in honor of loved ones line the track, are lighted after nightfall, and the sounds of celebration from early in the night are replaced with silent reflection.

At this year's Relay, those bags will be weighted down with canned goods, rather than sand, which was used in years past. After the event, those canned goods will be donated to three local food banks in an effort to pay it forward.

Finally, new to the event this year, is a bit of added competition for the high school teams that participate.

The Prized Purple Ribbon will be awarded to the high school with the most participants and greatest fundraising efforts. Points will be awarded to each school for individual involvement and team contributions, and the school with the most points by closing ceremonies on the morning of June 23 will be able to proudly display the first annual Prized Purple Ribbon award and hold the title until next year's Relay.

Regardless of all their efforts, one thing the committee members can't plan is the weather, but if you are a survivor, caregiver or anyone else who has been touched by the far-reaching effects of cancer, join to help further the American Cancer Society's vision of creating a world with less cancer and more birthdays.

To find out more information about the event or to register as a survivor, visit relayforlife.org/derryandlondonderrynh or contact Brigit Ryan-Souza at Brigit.Ryan@cancer.org or 471-4113.

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