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'Cancer doesn't sleep and neither do we'



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February 13, 2013 - Brandon Twp.- Julie Graveldinger learned last week that a friend has been diagnosed with cancer.

This is not the first time she has received such news from a friend, nor a family member. And while she cannot carry the burden of those who fight the disease for months or years, she comforts herself knowing there is one day every year she can dedicate to making a difference in finding a cure and providing services to cancer patients.

That 24-hour period this year will fall on June 15-16 when Graveldinger and hundreds of others participate in the Sixth Annual Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville. A kick-off meeting to prepare for this year's Relay for Life is planned for 6 p.m., Feb. 28, at the library, 304 South St.

"Cancer doesn't sleep and neither do we," notes Graveldinger, volunteer chairperson or the 2013 Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville. "Relay is something we can do to put an end to cancer and celebrate our survivors."

Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society's signature fundraising event. It features a 24-hour walk, with participants forming teams of several members, in which each team is represented on the track by at least one member at all times. The Relay has a party-like atmosphere in Brandon at the varsity field on Varsity Drive, near Harvey Swanson Elementary. There are numerous speakers throughout the day, a dj or bands provide music, games are played, and laps are themed. The public is welcome, even if they are not walking or on a team.

This year marks the 100th birthday of the American Cancer Society and Graveldinger said a major focus of Relay volunteers this year is to get across the ACS mission. Information on services the ACS provides for cancer patients will be offered at the kick-off meeting, and attendees can sign up a team or simply learn more about Relay without any obligation.

This year, organizers for the Brandon Relay have set goals of registering 38 teams for the event, raising $75,000 and honoring 105 survivors. In the last five years, Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville has averaged 35-40 teams per year and raised more than $300,000 in the fight against cancer.

Graveldinger cites data from the ACS that every 1 in 100 Americans participate in Relay for Life, with 3 million people participating annually across the nation.

The theme chosen for the 2013 Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville is "Games." Teams set up booths and tents around the track and may choose various board games such as Monopoly, Candyland, Life and more in which to decorate, etc. This year will also feature new fundraising incentives to give participants more recognition for their efforts.

Graveldinger is excited for the kick-off, which will feature a couple videos, light refreshments and plenty of information on what Relay is all about.

"It's so hard to explain unless you have been there, just the feeling that you get that everybody is fighting for the same thing," Graveldinger said. "You can participate a lot or a little. I just encourage everyone to see what the big hype is that weekend by coming to our kick-off meeting."

For more information about the kickoff event or on how you can get involved, contact Julie Graveldinger at 248-535-8074 or jamajuno1@yahoo.com.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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