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Friday's Relay For Life of South Washington County has bigger goal, more enthusiasm

Mara Mayberry says she gets goose bumps when she talks about Relay for Life.

"As more and more people have experienced Relay, they have seen the impact that it can have on the community coming together for a common cause," she said. "Cancer is still impacting so many people ... this provides the opportunity for them to do something about it."

Relay For Life of South Washington County is the biggest one in the state, according to organizers. The event has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars each year by bringing together the communities surrounding East Ridge High School - Woodbury, Cottage Grove, Newport and St. Paul Park.

Mayberry, chair of the event, said the event raised a total of $264,000 after expenses were paid last year.

The committee is shooting for a $300,000 fundraising goal this year.

"Obviously our goal is to get as close to that number as we can the day of Relay or the day after," she said, though fundraising continues all the way through August.

The June 8 event held at East Ridge will have fundraising opportunities in the form of activities and the sale of goods and food.

New this year

New this year is a dunk tank, coffee and cupcakes for sale, as well as jewelry and other items. All proceeds will go the American Cancer Society.

This year's honorary survivor is Brianna Wukawitz, a 15-year-old from Cottage Grove battling leukemia.

The event for the first time will also honor Caregivers.

In addition to the hundreds of teams and individuals that participate, Relay for Life of South Washington County draws more than 4,000 people to the bleachers.

Mayberry said the extra family members and friends help cheer on the teams as they walk the laps and contribute to fundraising efforts.

This year's Relay has two first time Platinum Sponsors, ReMax Results and Lifeline Chiropractic who donated more than $$5,000 to Relay For Life. Lifeline Chiropractic raised most of their funds through the donations from new patients, and ReMax Results created a matching program for donations from their agents in the Woodbury office.

The mission of Relay is "Celebrate. Remember. Fight back": Celebrate survivors, remember those who lost the cancer battle and fight back against the disease, Mayberry said.

As the sun goes down and dusk hits the stadium at East Ridge, the luminaria ceremony will begin.

Luminaria bags lit with the names of survivors and those who lost the fight against cancer will line the tracks.

The bags have become an icon for Relay for Life across the state and the country, Mayberry said.

"It really is something to see," she said.

"The event helps increase awareness and contributes to cutting edge research so more cancer patients are saved.

"Our goal is to have a lot more survivors and fewer 'in memory of' luminaria bags," Mayberry said. "We believe our efforts raising money for the American Cancer Society make a difference. And they do."

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.