Residents of Gulf County can join the fight against cancer right in their own back yards.

Residents of Gulf County can join the fight against cancer right in their own back yards.

Each year, more than 1 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer and this year, Port St. Joe, Wewahitchka and Franklin County will come together for the Forgotten Coast Relay for Life event on Friday, April 11.

The event, held at the Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School Shark Stadium, is a 12-hour effort to raise money for the American Cancer Society and build awareness to help fight the disease. Money raised will help treat those with cancer and fund research against the illness.

“It’s a family-oriented event,” said Survivor chair Kim Kurnitsky “It’s a great way to show support for survivors and honor those who have lost their lives.

“By combining Port St. Joe, Wewahitchka and Franklin County, it’s a way to bring the community together, rather than compete against one another.”

Kurnitsky said that the relay is an event that’s close to her heart. She lost her father to melanoma and her mother is a survivor.

Relay For Life is held overnight as individuals and teams camp out at an athletic track, park or other gathering area, with the goal of keeping at least one team member on the track or pathway at all times throughout the evening.

The events are held overnight to honor and mirror a cancer patient’s journey through treatment.

The event will begin with a survivor lap in which cancer survivors and their caregivers will take a walk around the track to the applause of gathered spectators and team members.

At dark the Luminaria Ceremony is held during which candles are lit inside white paper bags, emblazoned with the names of loved ones who have lost the fight to cancer and those who continue to fight.

Last year’s 24-hour relay in Wewahitchka, which utilized the theme “Carnival of Hope” raised $15,000 for the ACS while Port St. Joe’s Monopoly-themed event brought in an additional $39,500.

This year’s theme is “Birthdays,” which is meant as a positive look into the future of those who are currently battling for their lives.

“This community has lost a lot of people and there are lots more fighting this horrible disease,” said Kurnitsky. “Hopefully we can all celebrate more birthdays.”

A wine tasting fundraiser will be held from 7-9 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 5. Tickets are $20 and all proceeds will benefit the ACS.

Entertainment will be provided by the Bo Spring Band.

Food will be provided and a silent auction will be held.

Limited tickets are available by calling 227-4093.

The Forgotten Coast Relay for Life will begin at 7 p.m. ET April 11.

Volunteers, walkers, cancer survivors, caregivers, community leaders and anyone wanting to make a difference can sign up by contacting Kaci Rhodes at 348-7798 or Doris Carmichael at 229-243-4449.