As the American Cancer Society’s Santa Monica “Relay for Life” Co-Chair, Alex Panagakis knows too well how cancer can easily touch someone close to your heart.
Both his mother and stepfather are cancer survivors, but he lost his brother-in-law in his battle with Lymphoma at the age of 39.
That is why he is so committed to making the Santa Monica “Relay for Life” fundraiser this weekend such a success.
“This is such a life-affirming event,” Panagakis said. “The Santa Monica Relay for Life brings together a group of wonderful Santa Monica and West LA residents who have in one way or another been affected by cancer who want to raise money and awareness for this disease to hopefully one day put an end to the word cancer.”
The event will be held this Saturday, June 2 starting 9 a.m. and will run for 24 hours at Santa Monica College.
At the event, teams will camp out around the running track and take turns walking or running the track.
Panagakis said “Relay for Life” was a life-changing event that gave everyone in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease.
He said “Relay for Life” events were usually overnight lasting up to 24 hours in length because “cancer never sleeps.”
“Relayers do not have to walk all night, but each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event,” he said.
This year there are 17 teams, including The Santa Monica Police Department, The Santa Monica Fire Department, and such individual teams gathered with friends like The Santa Monica Beach Boys and Girls.
“As we started with an initial fundraising goal of $15,000, we have already surpassed that amount with almost $17,000 raised and I am sure with everyone’s continued hard work and perseverance we will reach a goal of nearly $25,000 – an amount that we hope will make a significant difference in this fight,” he said.
The event will start with a Survivors Lap – an inspirational time when survivors are invited to circle the track together and help everyone celebrate the victories they’ve achieved over cancer.
Panagakis said caregivers would also be recognized and celebrated at the event.
“These individuals give their time, love, and support to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers who face cancer,” he said. “After dark, we honor people who have been touched by cancer and remember loved ones lost to the disease during the Luminaria Ceremony. Candles are lit inside bags filled with sand, each one bearing the name of a person touched by cancer, and participants often walk a lap in silence.”
Lastly, there is a Fight Back Ceremony where participants will make a personal commitment to save lives by taking up the fight against cancer.
“That personal commitment may be to do something as simple as getting a screening test, quitting smoking, or talking to elected officials about cancer,” he said. “By taking action, people are personally taking steps to save lives and fight back against a disease that takes too much.”
During the 24-hour relay there will be games, music, entertainment, and fundraising that makes for an inspiring as well as fun event that brings together a community for the greatest cause – the gift of life.
For more information on The American Cancer Society’s Santa Monica Relay for Life, and how you can get involved, participate and donate to the cause, visit http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR?fr_id=37094&pg=entry.