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Riverbank Relay Community Unites To Fight Cancer
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With one year under their belt and a community standing behind them, organizers are more than hopeful that this year's second annual Relay for Life in Riverbank will be anything but forgettable.

This year's event is set for Saturday and Sunday, May 31 and June 1, and will be staged on the football field at Riverbank High School. Opening ceremonies will be conducted Saturday at 9 a.m. with the survivor lap at 9:30 a.m. Closing ceremonies are set for Sunday morning.

Relay for Life is the signature fundraising event of the American Cancer Society, conducted annually in communities worldwide. The event raises funds, which are utilized for research, awareness, advocacy and patient services.

Proving that one person can make a difference, the first event was conducted in May 1985. The event was the vision of De. Gordy Klatt, a Tacoma colorectal surgeon with a desire to raise the income of his local American Cancer Society office.

Dr. Klatt pioneered the event as the City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer, personally circling the track at Baker Stadium at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington for 24 hours. His individual efforts clocked a total of 83 miles and raised $27,000 to fight cancer.

As nearly 300 of his friends, family members and patients watched, Dr. Klatt envisioned how others could take part. And so was born Relay for Life. The first team relay event was hosted the following year, with 19 teams raising $33,000.

Teams are comprised of 12 to 24 participants, and circle a track for a 24-hour period, as tribute to the fact that cancer does not sleep. The event is not a race, but described by many as a community type campout. Family and friends gather for the same common purpose, to celebrate the survivors, remember those they have lost and to fight back in the way of fundraising and advocacy.

"To see all the people in the community and surrounding communities come together for a common cause," Riverbank Relay Chairperson Albert Veldstra said of the event. "It's just amazing how much work and effort people are willing to put into this. It's amazing how much this Relay means to people."

Veldstra and his committee of 12 now hope that the hard work will not only translate to a fun event, but one that reaches its goal of $50,000.

According to the chairperson, last year's inaugural Riverbank event featured 10 teams and raised close to $25,000. When the group united to discuss their 2008 goal, the feeling was to double the teams and double the money.