MURPHYSBORO -- American Cancer Society is continuing the ongoing battle against cancer with its Relay For Life events throughout Southern Illinois.

The fundraiser had Friday events in Murphysboro, Mount Vernon, Centralia, Hamilton County and Saline-Gallatin Counties.

Alexandria Saieg, Relay For Life staff partner, said the overnight fundraiser is a community event that celebrates cancer survivors and also serves as a memorial to those who were lost.

“It helps us remember those that we lost to cancer,” she said. “It also works as a community event to fight back against cancer.”

The event at Murphysboro High School kicked off at 6 p.m. when cancer survivors took the first lap around the track, followed by the caregivers who helped them through the fight.

Saieg said the main goals of American Cancer Society and Relay For Life are funding cancer research, educating the public about what to do to prevent cancer and providing patient services to help people through their battle with the illness.

“As a whole, we are relaying so people do not have to hear the words that they have cancer or so that other people do not have to watch their loved ones go through it,” Saieg said.

Lori Elwell, event chair for Relay For Life, said she is participating in her seventh event and has been a loyal volunteer since her father was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2003.

She said she takes part to educate others about cancer and to help fund research about trying to find a cure.

“I love it,” she said. “It is a lot of hard work but this is what we work really hard for all year long.”

Larry Mittendorf, 75, of Murphysboro is a 50-year cancer survivor and he said the events are a great outlet for survivors to share similar experiences with each other. He said when he was diagnosed, he didn’t have support groups, but now people facing cancer have a lot of help.

“What is good for new people is they have someone to talk to and they have support groups now,” Mittendorf said.

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Dustin Duncan is a reporter for The Southern Illinoisan covering Carbondale.

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