Residents in the Smyrna-Clayton communities once again showed how they come together in times of need by raising over $61,000 for this year's Smyrna/Clayton Relay For Life event.

Relay For Life was held Friday at the Smyrna High School track. Relay For Life is a fundraiser that benefits the American Cancer Society.

In just its second year in the area, the goal for this year's Relay For Life was to raise $33,000 but that figure was blown out of the water by the determination of this year's participants and teams.

Staci Lewis, the organizer for the Smyrna/Clayton Relay For Life, was amazed by the success of this year's event.

"I can't even put into words how I feel about this year," Lewis said. "We more than doubled in size and had so many people come out who had never been to a Relay. It doesn't quite seem real."

Not only did the group manage to exceed their monetary goal, but Lewis said they are the first Relay team in Delmarva to reach their American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) goal and had 50 survivors register.

"People are already asking when they can register for next year so I'm confident that we will be even bigger in 2014," Lewis said.

And the fundraising isn't even close to be over as the Smyrna/Clayton Relay For Life can raise money until August 31. There's even a tad bit of a wager going on for the group to double their initial goal and raise $66,000. Lewis said if the Smyrna/Clayton Relay For Life hits the $66,000 mark both herself and Jaime Watts – the group's American Cancer Society staff partner – will get pied in the face. Lewis will also post a video on Facebook of her dancing.

Coming together for a cause

This year's event had 39 teams and 443 participants. Relay For Life started Friday at 7 p.m. with opening ceremonies and ended at 7 a.m. Saturday. Lewis opened the ceremony by explaining to participants why she decided to start a Relay For Event program for the Smyrna/Clayton area.

"Unfortunately there are too many people affected by cancer here," Lewis said.

The top fundraisers and top teams were announced. The Smyrna Middle School baseball team presented a check to Lewis for $1,000 for the North Smyrna Elementary team. The team, which went undefeated, donated money based on their offensive statistics during the season.

Like last year's event, a participant spoke on how cancer has impacted their life. This year it was Tori Brien, who spoke about the recent loss of her boyfriend, Tyler Gebhart, to cancer. Brien said Gebhart, at 23, was an example of how age is never a factor when it comes to cancer.

"Tyler put everyone before himself," Brien said. "Without trying, Tyler touched so many."

Before the rest of the event began, Lewis took a few more moments to address the participants, explaining she had spent about two weeks trying to figure out what to say at the fundraiser.

"Thank you all for coming and for the tireless work that you're doing," Lewis said.

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