VAN WERT — After losing her grandfather to lung cancer in 1995, Pati Jenkins had a passion for fighting the disease.
After joining a Relay for Life team in 2008, she gained a passion for the event and the American Cancer Society.
Jenkins steadily took on more and more leadership roles in Van Wert County, and has chaired the Van Wert Relay for Life for the past two years. She and hundreds on teams will share in the inspiration a relay delivers as the weekend event kicks off a summer of relays around the region.
Van Wert’s event begins at 4 p.m. Friday, with the opening ceremony and survivors’ lap at 6 p.m. at Van Wert County Fairgrounds. The event goes through the night and ends at noon Saturday.
Like many people walking, Jenkins was touched by cancer when her grandfather died.
“I had heard about the relay for years, but never really knew what it was,” Jenkins said. “Someone asked me to be on a team, and I found out what it was all about, and my passion came from that. I want a future for my children when they ask what was cancer?’”
Each year, more than 4 million people in over 20 countries raise funds and awareness to save lives from cancer through Relay For Life events. Relay For Life teams camp out overnight and take turns walking or running around a track or path at a local high school, park, or fairground. Events are up to 24 hours long, and each team has at least one participant on the track at all times.
Events also include opening ceremonies with a survivors lap; family-friendly activities, food and entertainment open to the public; luminaria memorial ceremonies and closing ceremonies. Visit www.RelayForLife.org to find out more information about regional events, teams and fundraising.
The Van Wert relay has a fundraising goal of $69,000 and the teams will continue to raise money after the event, Jenkins said. The overnight event will include auctions, live music, food, vendors and activities to keep people energized in the wee hours, such as a midnight box car race and a Miss Relay pageant.
“We get traffic all night long — it’s fun, even in the middle of the night — you stay up, you reflect,” Jenkins said. “Everyone there has been touched by someone who’s had cancer.”
Jenkins also reminded the public they are invited to the event and activities; you don’t need to be participating on a team to shop with the vendors, help teams raise money or attend a ceremony.