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Get ready to walk for a cause

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By Kirsten Laskey

The community can get a bite of breakfast and an earful of information about the upcoming Relay for Life during the relay’s kickoff event Saturday at Pajarito Masonic Lodge.Information and sign up will be held from 8-10 a.m. and the kick off ceremony will be from 9-10 a.m.While the Masons cook up waffles, Relay for Life chairwoman Hilde Fitzgerald said, information about the relay will be distributed and people will be given the opportunity to “pick our brains.”People can also register to be on a relay team.The cost of the breakfast is $5, and all the proceeds will go toward Relay for Life.Relay for Life will start at 6 p.m. Aug. 1 and end at noon Aug 2. In the past, the event was held at Ashley Pond, but this year the event will be moved to the high school track. Fitzgerald said walking on the track will be safer at night, plus there are bathroom facilities on the site.Relay for Life has had a successful history in Los Alamos. Fitzgerald said last year, $40,000 was raised. This year the goal is to raise $50,000. Another success story is that in 2006, Los Alamos earned a national award for having the highest numbers of cancer survivors participate in the relay. She estimated 400 survivors participated last year.Fitzgerald credited the growing awareness of cancer in the community. “Everyone in the community has been impacted (by cancer) in some way.” Additionally, local survivors are “very active” and “we have a big following of corporate sponsorship,” she said.Besides corporate donations, there are numerous ways to support the Relay for Life. For instance, teams can sell luminaries in memory of someone who died from the cancer or to recognize a survivor.Additionally, teams can sell bake goods, hold auctions, wash cars or direct family and friends to donate through the Relay for Life website.A big portion of the money will stay in the community, Fitzgerald said. For instance, Fitzgerald said she is involved in a local program called Look Good, Feel Better. The program offers advice on makeup and hair care for cancer patients.Funds raised also go toward research for new drugs. “Through fundraising and through research and advocacy on the government level, it’s the mission of the American Cancer Society to turn cancer into a chronic disease instead of a deadly one,” Fitzgerald said.Cancer is something that Fitzgerald has personally battled throughout her life. Her mother died of breast cancer at age 64. At age 44, Fitzgerald was diagnosed with cancer herself. She has been cancer-free for about five years.As a result she became involved in the relay in memory of her mother and in recognition of her own experiences.Fitzgerald encourages others to join the effort. “The community supports us with their time and with their money,” she said. Even though Los Alamos is small, it’s contribution pooled with the money raised through relays across the U.S. and world, add up.There are several ways to become part of a team, Fitzgerald said.People can sign up at the kickoff event Saturday or go to the website, which still being developed. For more information about team recruitment and retention, contact Jeremy Varela at 661-4844 or e-mail him at jvarela@losalamos.org.