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28th Annual Missoula Relay For Life a Friends and Family Affair [AUDIO]

Friday and Saturday, June 21 and 22, dozens of teams participated at the Missoula County High School stadium for the 28th annual Missoula Relay for Life, walking around the running track for 24 hours to raise funds in the fight against cancer.

Relay for Life-Sandra MarksEvent Chair with Relay For Life Sandra Marks described where the monies raised will go.

“There’s a lot of programs the American Cancer Society does,” Marks said. “This money goes right back into our community. We have free hotel stays, we offer free rides back and forth between treatments, we have the ‘feel-good, look-good’ programs for those who are going through chemotherapy and you lose your hair and you just don’t feel good about yourself anymore, so we show them how to use make-up, wigs and scarves to make them feel better about themselves.”

Marks said the biggest cost is research.

“I’m in the health insurance industry,” Marks said. “It’s really tough when I get those phone calls and I have to tell them I’m sorry, your treatment is too experimental and your plan doesn’t cover it. So, the association helps to pay for treatment programs so they won’t just be experimental anymore, and they will be covered by health plans.”

Surrounding the track were nearly 2,000 white bags, decorated with the names of individuals who had either died from cancer, were under treatment, or were cancer survivors. They became luminaria after lit candles were placed inside. Marks explained the purpose of the annual luminaria ceremony.

“These bags were purchased by individuals in honor or in memory of those with cancer,” Marks said. “When the stadium lights go down, the only light on the walking track is from the luminaria. This is our time to honor them and remember them, and it reminds us all why we’re out here doing this, so that we can more bags for honor… and less for memory.”

Marks said the goal for 2013′s Relay For Life is $100,000 in total pledges.

Our goal for the luminaria ceremony was 1985, since that was the first year of the program,” Marks said. “Overall, our goal is about $100,000. We were a little over $85,000 just before the luminaria ceremony, and I’m sure we’ll beat that because of all the raffles and other fundraising activities going on at the stadium.”

This reporter was one of two individuals who read the names of nearly two thousand cancer patients and survivors during the luminaria ceremony, along with Will Wadley with NBC Montana and KECI-TV.

Event Chair with Relay For Life Sandra Marks

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