12-hour ‘Relay For Life’ event in Grass Valley raises money for cancer research | TheUnion.com

12-hour ‘Relay For Life’ event in Grass Valley raises money for cancer research

At a previous Relay For Life fundraiser, Nevada County cancer survivors participate in the opening lap, celebrating their victory over cancer.
Submitted by Melisa Mistler |

On June 4, at least 16 teams comprised of Nevada County residents will take part in Relay For Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

Relay For Life teams traditionally “set up camp” and take turns walking or running around a track or path. This year’s event is 12 hours long — from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Because “cancer never sleeps,” each team is asked to have at least one participant on the track at all times.

Thus far, 93 Nevada County individuals have raised more than $8,648 for this year’s event. Local teams are joining more than four million people worldwide, all of whom are organizing similar events to fight cancer. The June 4 event will take place at the pond on the Sierra College campus in Grass Valley. More teams are encouraged to sign up and the public is invited to shop at team booths, join a team, listen to guest speakers, walk a lap, play games, listen to music and more.

“We’re encouraging people to come on out and enjoy the lovely campus,” said Melisa Mistler, a key organizer and team captain for the M3 Mall team. “Wear purple and join us as we take this opportunity for residents to come together as a community to support those who have survived cancer, who are fighting cancer, and to remember those who lost their battle with cancer.”

The morning will begin at 9 a.m. with a “Survivor Breakfast,” a free meal specifically for survivors or people who are currently fighting cancer. Opening ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. The national anthem will be sung by Junior Miss Northern California of 2015 and Nevada County Deputy District Attorney Jessica McCall. Shadi Rezaie, Miss Northern California of 2015, will emcee the event. The opening ceremonies speaker will be Mardie Caldwell of the Foothills Event Center.

In addition, cancer survivors will be honored with medals, awarded by Dr. Melisa Agness of Insight Imaging, Dr. David Campbell, an oncologist with Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and M3 Mall’s “Royal Court.”

While activities, live music and speakers are scheduled throughout the day, the “luminaria ceremony” is often considered an emotionally powerful, culminating event, as luminary bags are lit with candles at dusk to honor loved ones lost to cancer or those currently battling the disease. Closing ceremonies will begin at 9 p.m.

“My daughter Wendi died in 2011 from colon cancer,” said Joan Lehman of Nevada City. “Shortly after that I attended my first Relay For Life with Melisa. The event itself is very moving and also fun. I have learned a lot about the American Cancer Society in the past six months. Not only do they provide money for cancer research, but many other services also, such as help with insurance and medications, rides to — and lodging for — out of area treatments, a beauty and nutritional program, wigs for those who lose their hair, an 800 number with a myriad of information for cancer patients and their caregivers, support groups and much more.”

Relay For Life began in May 1985, when Tacoma, Wash., surgeon and avid runner Gordy Klatt ran more than 83 miles around a track at University of Puget Sound for 24 hours, raising $27,000 in honor of a young man who died of cancer. Klatt was credited for changing the way the American Cancer Society raised funds by combining his passion for running with his passion for fighting against cancer. The next year, 220 people on 19 teams joined him, and a worldwide phenomenon took off from there. In 1994, Relay for Life became the American Cancer Society’s signature event. Today, the event is held in more than 20 countries and has raised nearly $5 billion. Klatt passed away in 2014 at the age of 71.

“I’ve lost one of my closest childhood friends and both of my grandmothers to cancer,” said Mistler. “Every step in this event is one closer to the cure.”

For more information, visit “Relay For Life of Nevada County” on Facebook, call Melisa Mistler at 530-205-8462 or email melisa@m3mall.biz. The Relay For Life event is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. June 4 at the Sierra College Nevada County Campus. Team captains, team members, donators, volunteers and cancer survivors are encouraged to sign up at http://www.relayforlife.org and enter the zip code “95945.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email Cory@theunion.com.

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