Panama City Beach Relay for Life kicks off

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PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Cancer often has a far-reaching impact on families and even communities.

That's the case in Panama City Beach where locals gathered at Arnold High School on Friday to raise money for cancer research.

The event kicked off with the sounds from Michael Grady and Nu Gulf Choir.

Our very own Jessica Foster addressed the crowd during the opening ceremony to share her story of breast cancer.

"Kinda like what Jessica Foster said, early screening is the biggest because I'm colon cancer not breast cancer," Susan Rodger, Juvenile Chief Assistant State Attorney said. "I also got screened at a much younger age so I tell people if you have any symptoms talk to a doctor."

Rodger is a three-year survivor of cancer.

Relay for Life is an American Cancer Society fundraiser. This year's 26 area teams are trying to raise more than $70,000.

"For us who are dealing with hair loss they provide a free wig," Rodger said. "They provide transportation to people who need it for chemo. So they do so much more than just help with the research."

This year's theme was "May the Cure Be With You" and many dressed up in their best Star Wars get-ups.

"I've been doing relay for like 20 years and it's constantly seeing the same people coming out with the same teams that support it and everybody always has a story that changes that impacts people's lives," Beth Bailey, a teacher at Surfside Middle School said.

Bailey is also a caregiver for family members battling cancer.

So far the teams have raised a little more than $50,000.

The first lap at the event was for survivors with caregivers to follow.

Relay for Life in Panama City Beach will continue to collect donations until August.