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Cali Owings, Published June 19 2013

Carnival theme planned for Relay for Life

FARGO – Many touched by cancer will gather at Oak Grove Park here Friday for a “Carnival of Hope.”

The Fargo Relay for Life, an overnight celebration and fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, is taking on a carnival theme this year.

Hailey Brenden, one of the relay’s organizers, said a carnival atmosphere will appeal to families and people who aren’t already part of a team. There’s no admission fee, but many games like balloon toss and “The Price is Right” will be ticketed as the teams try to collect donations for the American Cancer Society.

Friday marks Brenden’s 10th year participating in Relay for Life. The 24-year-old teacher got involved after her mother died from breast cancer when she was 14.

Now a volunteer, she said Relay for Life is a good way to honor her mother and continue fighting cancer.

“It touches so many different people,” Brenden said. “(Relay is) an opportunity to give back and try to fight cancer.”

Cancer survivors, people battling the disease, loved ones and caregivers raised about $89,000 in last year’s event.

According the American Cancer Society’s website for the Fargo event, 30 teams and 211 participants have raised $34,000 so far this year.

Donations go toward research, programming, education and advocacy, said Doug Stetz, with the Fargo American Cancer Society.

While Relay for Life events provide many different activities to help people “forget they’re staying up all night,” Stetz said all events typically have a reception for cancer survivors, opening and closing ceremonies and a candle-lighting ceremony.

Cancer survivors are invited to a reception at 5:30 p.m. in the park’s north shelter before the opening ceremony at 7 p.m.

“There are a lot of cancer survivors in town. We want to treat them with the respect that they’ve earned,” said Jody Carpenter, who chairs the Fargo Relay for Life committee.

Once the carnival is underway, teams will sell food and provide games at stations set up along the track in addition to other scheduled activities.

For many, the highlight of any Relay for Life event is the Luminaria Ceremony.

Participants decorate special light-up bags in honor of loved ones who’ve lost their battle with cancer or those who are still fighting. The bags are placed around the track. At sundown, participants gather and usually take a silent lap around the track as the luminaria are lit.

“The track is lit for you all night long,” Carpenter said. “The first silent lap is very moving.”

Throughout the night, many participants will share their stories of survival, memorial and hope.

“It’s one of those places where everyone that’s there knows what you’re going through or knows what you’ve been through and knows where you’re coming from,” Carpenter said.

If you go

• What: Relay for Life

• When: Friday at 7 p.m.

• Where: Oak Grove Park,170 Maple St. N., Fargo

• Info: Free; participants do not have to register with a team. Survivor reception at 5:30 p.m.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599