Recently, a small army of American Cancer Society volunteers took to the streets on a marketing blitz termed "Paint the Town Purple."

The goal was to distribute information, flyers and posters to as many Woodbury organizations as possible in an effort to raise public awareness of the June cancer fundraiser, Relay For Life, and ultimately increase participation.

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Everyone is painfully aware of how difficult it is going to be to reach the goal of $230,000 for the American Cancer Society in this economy.

Rather than asking the participants already involved in Relay to raise more money, our mission is to get more people on board.

While we hoped our purple swathe would have created a connection farther and wider among the community, we are appreciative to all of those folks who were willing to hang a poster, make a donation or form a team.

It warms this publicity volunteer's heart to walk into a place of business and see a Relay sign prominently displayed. The simple act of hanging a sign publicly is indeed playing a part in this community endeavor to fight cancer. And it's about a community that takes up the fight.

This year, the Relay For Life of Woodbury will likely surpass the $1 million mark in fundraising since 2004.

A recent article in the Woodbury Bulletin talked about the Hope Lodge as one of the many ways this money is put to work. These 28 locations nationwide reduce the cancer burden by offering a free home-like place to stay for patients receiving treatment far from home.

Demonstrating further how Woodbury's Relay contributes to the fight against cancer, just last week the American Cancer Society released the annual cancer statistics report, "Cancer Facts & Figures 2009."

The good news, cancer death rates are steadily dropping. Between 1991 and 2005 cancer death rates declined 19.2 percent among men and 11.4 percent among women.

This drop is driven in large part by better prevention, increased use of early detection practices, and improved cancer treatments.

Cancer incidence rates are also on the decline albeit to a lesser extent.

"A drop of 1 or 2 percent per year may sound small, but as this report shows, that adds up to 650,000 cancer deaths avoided over 15 years," said John R. Seffrin, PhD, American Cancer Society chief executive officer. "And because the rate continues to drop, it means that in recent years, about 100,000 people each year who would have died had cancer rates not declined are living to celebrate another birthday. That is undeniable evidence of the lifesaving progress that we as a country must dedicate ourselves to continuing."

ACS researchers estimate that there will be about 1,479,350 new cancer cases and about 562,340 cancer deaths in 2009.

For all cancers diagnosed from 1996-2004, the 5-year relative survival rate is 66 percent, up from 50 percent in 1975-1977.

That increase reflects remarkable breakthroughs in both early detection and treatment thanks to American Cancer Society funded research. Considering Relay For Life raised over $400 million nationwide is just more evidence that Relay does indeed offer everyone a way to fight cancer.

Advancing cancer research is important to so many and this year the Woodbury Relay has the honor of being one of two Minnesota events where volunteers can enroll in the Society's third Cancer Prevention Study (CPS-3), the largest research project of its kind in the United States. The study calls for 500,000 adults to help Society researchers better understand the causes of cancer.

In 2008, more than 20,000 Relayers and community supporters enrolled in the study. The goal for Woodbury is 160 volunteers.

Anyone between the age of 30 and 65 who has never been diagnosed with cancer is eligible and one does not need to be part of a Relay team to participate.

2009 marks the 25th year of Relay events. By uniting millions of people worldwide against this disease, cancer is no longer a diagnosis that is spoken about in whispers but a challenge to be met head on with courage and dignity.

Cancer is not a problem strictly for researchers, doctors, and lawmakers but a cause in which we can all make a difference.

Please come to the Relay For Life of Woodbury this year and see for yourself the power of unity and hope in action.

The Survivors Lap is perhaps the most cherished part of Relay where cancer survivors walk together to share and celebrate with others on the same journey.

This emotional moment kicks off the Relay followed by teams of volunteers keeping at least one member walking around the track throughout the night to represent that the fight against cancer never rests.

The opening ceremony begins at 6 p.m., Friday, June 19 in the Lion's Club Bandshell in Ojibway Park. Kid's games, a silent auction, concessions, and music will create the "Party with a Purpose" atmosphere.

The Luminaria Ceremony will be at 9:30 p.m. and bags can be purchased ahead of time for a $10 donation to honor or memorialize a loved one touched by cancer.

A closing ceremony and total fundraising announcements start at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 20.

For more information about getting involved in Relay or the Cancer Prevention Study, call Mary LaPrairie at (651) 730-4349, e-mail jbmslaps@yahoo.com or visit the website www.relayforlife.org/woodburymn.