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AYER — Each year, Relay for Life raises money to support the battle against cancer.

On Jan. 30, volunteers at Nashoba Valley Medical Center hustled to set up food, balloons and other decorations to kick off the organization’s 2007 campaign.

“I think everybody who’s involved has a stake here,” said resident Martha Craft. “I don’t think cancer has left anyone out. We all know someone who’s had cancer, and we’re all looking for a cure.”

Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the volunteer-driven event supports cancer research, education and programs for people battling the disease.

The relay is a nonstop overnight event on June 22 and 23 in which teams keep at least one member walking the high-school track for 16 hours.

Until the event, Craft and other organizers will register as many teams as they can, each ranging from seven to 30 members. Participants are asked to solicit at least $100 in donations a piece.

Last year, 399 people on 39 relay teams participated. They raised $86,465.

Craft is one of 58 cancer survivors who participated last year. She overcame ovarian cancer prior to becoming involved with Ayer’s inaugural relay eight years ago. She said that’s what made her want to get involved.

“When you’re a survivor, you want to give back,” she said.

The event is regional, she said, and anyone who wants to get involved is welcome. People can form a team, join an existing one or volunteer to help at one of the events.

“We can work with whatever time you have to give us,” said event Cochairman Sally Waite.

Originally launched by a Washington-based doctor in 1985, relays have become a nationwide event. Last year, 81 were held in New England alone, said American Cancer Society representative Lucy Puzo.

While the society supports those rallies, the activity has a ratio of 400 volunteers to one staffer. Because of that ratio, 85 cents of every dollar raised goes toward the cause, said Townsend resident Richard “Dick” Oakley, who was chairman for the first Ayer relay.

Oakley, a clinical pharmacist, got involved with the relay after learning a doctor he knew was doing research underwritten by the American Cancer Society. That doctor went on to develop a drug that lowers the fatality rate of a leukemia strain from 80 to 20 percent, which Oakley said is proof positive of the effect fund-raising can have.

But the job isn’t finished yet, he said, and that’s why he stays involved.

For information or to get involved call Waite at (978) 939-8010 or e-mail or e-mail enrollment director Amy Messcher at

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