An annual event to raise funds and awareness for the fight against cancer is in need of teams and volunteers.

The American Cancer Society's annual Relay for Life event will take place April 17. The event takes place nationwide, with more than 3.5 million people participating every year, organizers said.

Many who participate in the event help to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost and empower individuals and communities to help fight back against cancer.

The Relay for Life opens as cancer survivors and caregivers walk or use a wheelchair to complete the first lap. Afterwards, other walkers take to the track to continue the relay. Organizers said oftentimes, a more festive atmosphere takes place between team members during the overnight event.

The race begins April 17 at 7 p.m. and lasts until the following morning, at 7 a.m.

Grace Martinez, who is helping to organize teams and gather volunteers for the event, said the Relay for Life is an important tool in informing the public about cancer, while also giving them a chance to become more involved in the fight.

"Relay for Life is an important fundraiser that helps our community with needs that only those who have lost a loved one could understand," Martinez said, adding that she has lost a family member to the disease. "Cancer affects so many lives every day. We need to make ourselves aware and, more importantly, we need to help as much as we can."

An event kick-off will take place Thursday at the VFW Post 3837, located at 12030 Leopard Street, at 6 p.m. The kick-off is meant to provide information for anyone needing to sign up his or her team, or for anyone who is looking to volunteer for the Relay for Life event.

Martinez said events like the Relay for Life help strengthen a community's resolve in the fight against a tenacious opponent.

"You just never know when it will affect us in our own home with one of our own loved ones," Martinez said.

For more information about how to form a team, become a sponsor or volunteer on the planning team, visit, or call the local American Cancer Society office at 857-0136.