IMLAY CITY — When Jennie Roberts thinks of family members who've passed away from cancer, she thinks of the loss in endearing terms.
"My brother-in-law Wally—this marks his tenth year of being an angel," Roberts, of Imlay City says, while flipping through old family photos.
Her brother Rich has had his 'wings' for six years and her sister-in-law Tammy for more than four.
They'll be foremost in Roberts' mind when she hits the track on Saturday for the American Cancer Society's Lapeer County Relay for Life at the Eastern Michigan Fairgrounds.
"The Relay is the time that I connect with these people and my memories of them," Roberts said.
Often it's for loved ones lost or battling cancer that drives participants in the Relay to fundraise, plan and walk 24 hours in hopes of helping others and ultimately finding a cure.
Roberts said this is the third year her team—appropriately called 'Friends, Family and Angels'—has walked but her family has been active in other events to fight the devastating disease. Her son, saddened by his aunt's hair loss over cancer treatment, donated his own locks to help fellow kids with cancer.
Roberts admits fundraising has been difficult this year considering the economy, but "we're doing the best we can."
Opening ceremonies begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday. The public is encouraged to attend and participate, if they like. All cancer survivors and their caregivers are especially welcomed to take part in the 6 p.m. survivor ceremony.
American Cancer Society Community Representative Carol Boom said the survivor ceremony is a time to celebrate life.
"The American Cancer Society is the official sponsor of birthdays," Boom said.
"We'll be celebrating everyone's birthday at this event."
Through various events, Relayers will learn about things like cancer prevention, advocacy and legislation. Boom said State Rep. Kevin Daley plans to speak.
A luminaria ceremony at 9:45 p.m. will honor those who've passed away. An inspiration time by Rev. Alan Casillas of St. Paul's Lutheran Church is slated for 7 a.m. on Sunday.
There's also lots of fun to be had during the 24 hour walk including live musical performances, a silent auction, hair donations and movies on the big screen. This year's theme is movies, so teams will decorate their campsites with unique, film-related items.
A closing ceremony and awards presentation starts at 7:30 a.m. Sunday with teams making their final lap at 8 a.m.
Last year, the Relay raised $94,000 for the cancer society.
For more information, contact the American Cancer Society at (810) 733-3702 or (800) 513-9930.