OGDEN -- "My mommy's a cancer survivor."
Seven-year-old Lili stood on the side of the track at Weber State Stewart Stadium cheering on her mom, Susan Johnson, during the cancer survivor's victory lap to open the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.
Johnson was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago. She battled through chemotherapy and radiation therapy and today is a cancer survivor.
Lili played with purple balloons, collected confetti and cheered as her mom took a victory lap.
"Go, mommy. Go, survivor mommy," Lili yelled.
Wearing purple shirts with "survivor" on the back, about 100 cancer survivors, young and old, lined up at the starting line. The Jazz Bear entered the stadium, shot confetti and started the relay.
"They are cancer warriors, and they are taking a victory lap," said Paula Axelrod, district executive director for the American Cancer Society. Axelrod is responsible for 45 relay events across Utah and part of Wyoming.
About 600 participants on 34 teams took to the track after the victory lap, with each team required to have at least one person walking on the track at all times.
Shaleen Robinson, of Roy, said this was her third year participating. Her grandmother died of ovarian cancer in 2006 and her family has attended since then.
"Toward the end, Grandma said she wanted everyone to get involved," she said, "so we started coming."
Robinson said her team has 59 members.
Participants not walking were resting in tents, playing carnival games, eating snowcones and visiting with friends and family. Dozens of tents and gazebos were set up across the football field.
As children ran around playing baseball and throwing frisbees, adults sat at picnic tables, eating hamburgers and potato salad.
"Rain or shine, we are here to fight cancer," Axelrod told participants just before the start. A light rain didn't stop participants, who grabbed umbrellas and jackets and continued walking.
The 19th Relay for Life in Ogden began at 6 p.m. Friday and goes until noon today.
A luminaria ceremony at 9:30 p.m. honored people who have been touched by cancer and remembered those lost to the disease. White paper bags lined the track and spelled "hope" in the stands.
The bags were decorated with pictures, drawings and notes from cancer survivors and families of cancer victims. The track was cleared, the stadium lights were dimmed, and the candle of each bag was lit. Then a bagpipe player took a lap as many people took a moment to remember lost loved ones.
The purpose of the relay is to raise money for cancer research and also raise awareness of cancer. Last year, $1.5 million was raised; the goal this year is $2.2 million.
Axelrod said Relay for Life is symbolic of the journey of those with cancer.
When people are diagnosed with cancer, their lives becomes dark and scary, so the relay begins just before it gets dark.
Relay participants give up 18 hours of their lives to support those with cancer, and it isn't always easy.
"It's hard walking the track at 3 or 4 in the morning," Axelrod said, "just like it's hard for cancer victims. But, the sun rises."
The relay ends today with a Fight Back Ceremony. Participants are asked to take care of their bodies, get screenings and make a commitment to save lives by fighting cancer.
"When people get cancer, you feel so helpless," said Amber Wilding, a volunteer from Kaysville. "This is the one thing that we can do to fight back."