BRADENTON -- G.T. Bray Park is always busy, but will be even more so this weekend.
That's because the American Cancer Society's annual Relay For Life of Bradenton gets under way at 1 p.m. Saturday, featuring residents who will help their teams walk around the clock for an important cause.
The event continues through the night, concluding at 7 a.m. Sunday.
"Relay is a unique opportunity for our community to come together to celebrate people who have battled cancer, remember those we've lost, and fight back against the disease," said Jessica Peck, the Relay For Life of Bradenton chair.
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Relay For Life events will be held overnight as individuals and teams camp
out around the G.T. Bray Park soccer field with the objective of keeping at least one team member on the track or pathway at all times throughout the night.
Though most team fundraising occurs prior to the event, some teams also hold creative fundraisers at their camp sites during the relay. It brings together friends, families, businesses, hospitals, schools and faith-based groups -- people from all walks of life with the goal of furthering the American Cancer Society's efforts to save lives.
"Many of the participants are cancer survivors, which serves as a reminder that the Bradenton community is not immune to this disease and that by participating in Relay we are joining with the American Cancer Society's efforts to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays," Peck said.
Relay For Life will also hold a Luminaria Ceremony after sundown, honoring the community's cancer survivors and remembering those lost to the disease. Participants will circle a track surrounded with glowing luminaria bearing the name of someone who has battled cancer.
Luminaria may be purchased for $1 by calling 941-328-3775 or visiting RelayForLife.org/Bradenton.
There will also be a "Fight Back" Ceremony, in which a community leader will inspire Relay participants with their commitment and will challenge others to take a personal pledge of action -- i.e., stop smoking, eat more healthily, exercise regularly, etc. -- in fighting back.
To locate a Relay for Life event and find out how you may get involved, please call 941-328-3775 or visit RelayForLife.org.
Locks of Love will also be on site for those who would like to donate their hair for cancer survivors. Professional stylist Sharon Papini of Teddi's Place will be near the main stage for hair donors at 3 p.m. For details, call Tess Chawi at 941-753-4401.
Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix