The 19th annual Relay for Life of Tamaqua and Surrounding Communities will kick off next Friday at 2 p.m. at the Panther Valley Football Stadium and end at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

This year's Relay marks a change of venue. In previous years, the event was held at the Hometown Farmers Market.

"Although the Hometown Farmer's Market location has served us well for the past couple of years, we continue to be extremely grateful to the Dunn Family and Hometown Farmer's Market and Marie Houser and staff at Marie's Lunch for their wonderful generosity and support," said, Caylan Chanwik, Community Income Development Specialist, Carbon-Tamaqua Unit, East Central Division, American Cancer Society. "The general consensus was that a stadium atmosphere would allow all parts of a Relay to be closer together and create a community feeling that a Relay is all about."

Organizers said this year's walk, themed "Rock The Walk", will consist of many new and exciting activities and performers. The 24-hour event will consist of a large variety of food, games, music and many other activities throughout the 24 hours.

Team members and organizers added that that the event is free, including parking. They encourage everyone to stop by and enjoy the food, as well as visit all the participating teams.

"We are especially excited to be holding the Relay in a new community this year," said Chanwik. "We believe the new location has many benefits, such as covered bleachers, a large grassy area on which to place team tent sites and the Panther Valley Band Boosters concession stand."

Organizers pointed out that the Panther Valley Band Boosters have a Relay team and have offered to run the stand and donate the proceeds to the Relay. In addition, the Panther Valley School District Relay team is generously sponsoring our use of the Panther Valley facilities this year.

To date, there are 24 teams and 163 participants registered for the Relay this year. Organizers pointed out their goal of $95,000, which is about $3,000 more than last year's total. Although the Relay starts at 2 p.m., the Opening Ceremony and Parade of Teams will be held at 6 p.m. on Friday to allow those who have to work that day the chance to attend.

The Survivor Ceremony will also take place Friday, led by the Relay's Survivor Chair Heather Eltringham. The event is free and open to the public, and all survivors are welcome to attend the survivor ceremony, even if they have not registered.

Eltringham said a special Survivor and Caregivers Lap will take place immediately following the ceremony.

The Luminaria Ceremony, organized by Luminaria Chair Ginny Tatusko, is set for 9 p.m. on Friday. Hundreds of lighted bags will line the track to honor those currently battling cancer and remember those lost to the disease.

All survivors are invited to return to the Relay on Saturday at 9 a.m. for a free special survivor's breakfast.

The Fight Back Ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday, led by Mission Chair Dr. Rosalee Rehrig, will provide people with the information and inspiration they need to fight back against this disease.

"Our Relay teams fundraise year-round in support of the Relay," Chanwik said.

The Tamaqua Relay started at the Mahoning Valley Farmer's Market in 1993, and since then has raised over $1 million for the American Cancer Society's fight against cancer.

All proceeds benefit the Carbon-Tamaqua Unit of the American Cancer Society. For more information, call (570) 645-2162, (888) 227-5445 ext.3112, or log onto