This year, in the fight against cancer, Prince George took up the baton and ran with it.
Sixteen hundred people and 142 teams showed up at Masich Place Stadium over two days in May for the 20th annual Relay for Life, an event that raised $490,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.
The amount collected was not only the second-highest achieved this year in B.C. , but only one other city in Canada -- Coquitlam -- managed to top that figure, finishing with a $550,000 total.
"With almost 500 relays, that's pretty incredible," said Trevor Patenaude, volunteer leadership chair of the Prince George Relay for Life.
"I knew we were in the top-five but to be right there took me by surprise. We're blessed in this community, we have great unity and the community comes together really well to support things. Cancer doesn't discriminate, it doesn't care about social standing, race, or age, it's relentless and comes after all of us and I think when we decide to come together and do something, we unite at relays."
Participants in the relay collect sponsorships in the community then show up at Masich Place Stadium to walk, run or wheel around on the running track for 24 consecutive hours while being entertained by musicians and dancers on the infield stage. Most people take part as teams but some complete the event solo.
The Prince George Relay for Life started out in 1991 as the Romp 'n' Stomp and later became the Relay for A Friend.
"Last May it was released that the death rate was going down for the first time since they started keeping that statistic," said Patenaude. "In 1960, the survival rate for someone with cancer was less than 30 per cent and right now we're over 62 per cent.
"When you look at how far we've come in 50 years and the momentum we've been gaining in the last 20 years with the Relay for Life, it's pretty exciting to think what we can do in the next 50 years."
The relay is the Canadian Cancer Society's largest annual fundraiser. This year, $49 million was raised at 470 relays across Canada. Money raised is used for cancer research and to promote the society's awareness campaigns. Patenaude got involved in the cause after his father developed prostate cancer.
"My dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2005 and there was lots of support for him," said Patenaude. "There are shuttle services to get people to and from appointments, there are financial aid programs for people who qualify. All that comes from from what we do."
Patenaude is hoping Prince George will lead the country in money raised at next year's 21st annual Relay for Life, set for May 11-12, 2013.
"If Detroit is Hockeytown, then we should make Prince George Relay City,"said Patenaude.
"Our goal is to have an event that has 1,600 people, supported by 80,000. If you're donating to your neighbour down the street because you're supporting him as a participant then let us know you're doing that by contacting our office. That's how we will become the No. 1 relay in Canada."
For information on how to get involved in the Relay for Life, go to www.relaybc.ca.