March 1, 2005
About 4,000 candles will light up the night on April 1 at Gilbert’s Highland High School in remembrance of people who have lost their battle with cancer and for those who are still fighting.
The luminaria ceremony will take place during the Relay for Life, an annual event to raise money for cancer research. The relay, which begins at 6 p.m. April 1 and ends at 7 p.m. the next day, involves teams taking turns for a half-hour to an hour walking around a track for the event’s duration.
Relay for Life events are scheduled across the country. In addition to Gilbert, relays will also be held next month in Tempe, Mesa, Chandler, Queen Creek, Apache Junction, Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and Fountain Hills.
The American Cancer Society has a goal to raise at least $100,000 from the event in Gilbert.
"People should come out to the relay because (cancer) affects everybody," said Jennifer Gerwitz, 17, a senior at Highland and the organizer of the luminaria ceremony. "We should all fight to find a cure for cancer."
So far there are more than 50 teams, with up to 15 people on a team, registered to participate in the relay.
A member of each team will always be on the track. It’s to signify that cancer never sleeps, said Colleen MacCallum, organizer of the Gilbert relay.
"Each team has a $2,000 goal," Gerwitz said.
The Relay for Life at Highland will also include activities for adults and children, including a kids area and a battle of bands with local country and rock groups.
In addition to raising awareness and money for the American Cancer Society, the Relay for Life is a "great learning opportunity for students," MacCallum said. "They learn how a nonprofit (business) works and the struggles a nonprofit goes through."
Whether soliciting donations or grilling burgers for relay participants, any help is appreciated for these volunteerdriven events.
"People can volunteer in whatever way they want," said Shelley Center, metro relationship manager with American Cancer Society.
"Each relay needs hundreds of volunteers. We need to find the volunteers to help out in every way, even if it’s just entertaining."
In her volunteer role, Vickie Armour heads publicity for the Apache Junction relay, scheduled for April 9.
"The generosity is just amazing with the community just pitching in," said Armour, participating for the first year.
Karen Eulate, the survivor committee chairwoman for the April 16 relay in east Mesa, got involved four years ago. She was inspired by the cancer battles her father, a former student and a colleague faced.
"When somebody that you’re close to gets diagnosed with cancer, you feel really helpless," Eulate said, adding that last year’s event netted more than $100,000. "I feel like that’s doing my part to help find a cure."
Teams of eight to 15 people can register for any local relay event. Each team
member is required to raise $100, "which is a very doable thing," Center said.
To register a Relay for Life team, volunteer, make a donation or learn more about upcoming relays in April, call (602) 224-7463 or visit