EUGENE, Ore. -- The Relay for Life is the leading fundraiser for cancer research in the world, striving to support and find cures for those battling cancer. However Eugene's annual relay pays a special tribute to those who have won that battle ... letting cancer survivors lead the way in the first lap.
Relayers said that it was an incredibly emotional experience to see the hundreds of cancer survivors take to the track together. What is more incredible are the stories of the survivors themselves.
As cancer survivor Jon Hinds put it, battling the disease takes a lot of courage.
"I just had to stay strong,I wasn't going to fight the facts." Hinds said. "I was going to surrender to it and beat it."
Jon's world was rocked when he was diagnosed with cancer six years ago. Now he relays to help those who may get a similar prognosis. Last year Hinds walked more than a marathon's length at the Relay for Life. He compares the drive to keep pushing himself to keep walking to his mindset during treatment.
This year Hinds hopes to walk 30 miles around the Willamette High School track.
For many survivors, laps around the track mean much more than exercise. Marli Ward said that the thousands turning out to support cancer research.
"There's support that you get from so many people and then you see all the support that other survivors have gotten." Ward said.
Seeing his mother walk in the survivor's lap at the beginning of the relay reminded Marli's son of her strength.
"She had the strength to overcome cancer, that she's still here today, it brings some strength to me" said Marli's son, Kurt Ward. "To know that my mom can overcome cancer, means you can pretty much overcome anything."
For those walking together in the lap, like Marli, it is a reminder of all those who have shared in that journey.
"Just seeing all of the survivors and caregivers ... it chokes me up now, just thinking about it." Ward said.
Following in the footsteps of the survivors were the supporters, family members, friends who walked the track for 24 hours to raise money for cancer research, awareness and other causes.