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Some of the largest charitable events involving masses of people gathering to walk, either for distance or time, are tied to one of the most insidious diseases of modern times.

During the course of a single year, millions of people raise upward of billions of dollars to battle cancer. Millions of people are directly affected by the disease, suffering from one of the many types that can attack nearly every major part of the human body, including organs, blood, skin and bones. Some forms are treatable, if caught in time. Others can be managed, often requiring years of treatment and checkups with physicians to keep it at bay. But in far too many cases, it is deadly, with victims having little time to do much else but make their peace with family and friends before the disease runs its course.

Earlier this month, more than 1,000 people registered to participate in the annual Relay for Life of Charles County. The event raised more than $153,000 to be donated to the American Cancer Society to continue research in the hopes of curing all forms of the disease.

For nearly a year leading up to the event, 93 teams recruited supporters to pledge funds in exchange for the participants spending hours walking in a symbolic march. The event was supposed to take place at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf, but due to inclement weather, it was moved indoors and across town to North Point High School. The event, this year and every year, draws survivors who have beaten the disease, those who are continuing their battle, and families and friends who carry on the memory of those lost to cancer.

Charles County’s Relay for Life event always has drawn an impressive crowd. Even more impressive is the work that goes in to putting on such an event year in and year out.

But despite all of the hard work, the fight against cancer remains an uphill battle. The Maryland Independent reported last year that while colorectal cancer cases, for example, were on decline in the state, Charles was looking at a higher rate of the disease than the state average. According to the Charles County Community Health Needs Assessment 2011, Charles County’s incidence rate for the disease was 48.7 out of 100,000, higher than the state average of 41.6 out of 100,000. But new incidences of the disease have been declining in the state overall. Health officials chalk that up to the state’s emphasis on early screening and prevention. They also will tell you about the importance of outreach and raising awareness of the disease.

Participants of the Relay for Life and their supporters deserve praise for their efforts. It is events like the annual walk, even with its somber overtones, that draw so many to help educate the public about the disease as well as raise money to help combat it.