Nearly a thousand people recently circled the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds from dusk to dawn during the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event, which raises money to fight cancer.
It was one of the 30 relays the nonprofit is holding in the Washington region through August — bringing in nearly $4 million each year, according to the organizers.
The all-night event was a mix between a carnival and a campsite as teams set up tents and booths with games and raffles. The more than 100 teams came from businesses, churches, schools, families and other community organizations bearing names such as “Cooking Up A Cure” and “Harry Potter and the Fight for Cancer.”
The relay required teams of up to 15 members to keep at least one representative walking on the track during the 24-hour event.
When they were not walking, participants bided their time with karate, tai chi, Zumba, a rock band contest, face painting and pie-eating contests.
At 9:30 p.m. a hush blanketed the festivities as people lit candles during the luminary ceremony in remembrance of loved ones who are battling or have died from cancer.
“When I light those candles, it’s hard to imagine what a survivor goes through, but I know that there’s hope” because so many people have beat cancer, said Kim Gramza, chairwoman of the event whose stepfather is a four-time cancer survivor.
Between registration fees, food sales and donations, the event raised $220,000, which will support the local American Cancer Society’s research, advocacy and programs.
The organization predicts there will be nearly 3,000 new cases of cancer this year in the District, 31,000 in Maryland and about 41,000 in Virginia.
The disease’s prevalence is why business services company Cintas decided to partner with the organization and sell raffle tickets at this event and 25 others in the nation’s Northeast, raising $52,000 total.
“We didn’t want to do a cause that would be too segmented,” said Brian Price, Cintas sales manager, whose grandfather died of prostate cancer in 2009. “We knew that partnering with the American Cancer Society would really hit home with us.”
Relay for Life walks are the largest revenue generators of the organization’s fundraising dollars. The walk started in 1985 in Tacoma, Wash., and now the nonprofit is holding about 5,000 nationwide this year.
Nonprofit officials said they are looking to expand relays in Prince William County and Loudoun County.
Corporate sponsors of the event were Bertucci’s Italian Restaurant, Simple Sands Deli, Cheeseburger in Paradise, Noodles & Co. and the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center.