Hudson celebrated its last Relay for Life in the city before the event will join with New Richmond for a county-wide relay next year.

Next year the event will be known as the St. Croix County Relay for Life and held June 7-8 at St. Croix Central High School in Hammond.

This year survivors, caretakers and supporters all gathered once again at Lakefront Park for the annual event on Friday, June 22. Together they raised nearly $36,000, according to the Relay for Life website.

Meg Heaton kicked off the relay as honorary co-chair. A long-time Hudson resident and former Star-Observer reporter, Heaton is no stranger to the Relay for Life event. She volunteered with the first relay in 2000, and continued to serve for close to 10 years. In 2010, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

As honorary chair for the second time, Heaton spoke of her experience with cancer, and the support she received from family, friends, coworkers and strangers.

"Cancer is a part of my life now, and by extension my family and my friends," Heaton said. "The truth is cancer is a part of all of our lives and that is why we are here tonight."

Survivors present joined together for their solo lap around the bandshell, before being joined by caretakers and the rest of the participants.

As the sun set, the luminaria lining the path glowed with the names of those lost, those still fighting and messages of hope and love.

Honorary co-chair Micki Dierks Thompson opened the luminaria ceremony. She first became involved with Relay for Life 22 years ago for her mother and grandmother, before being diagnosed herself with cancer in 2000.

Thompson's cancer was detected early, which she says saved her life and gave her an experience different from some.

"Everybody has their own journey through this and all of us are in disbelief at first. We hear those words, 'You have cancer,' and we wonder what our future holds or even if we have one," she said.

"But it doesn't matter how we survive it, it matters that we do."