White paper bags, listing the names of people who have or are currently struggling with cancer, lined the edge of the auditorium’s stage at Harborfields High School on Feb. 6.

As part of the district’s Relay for Life kick-off event, students, district administrators and community members offered words of hope and compassion to those in the audience affected by the disease. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Francesco Ianni spoke about the loss of his mother to cancer and the importance of getting involved in Relay for Life.

Alyssa Patrone, a representative of the American Cancer Society, encouraged audience members to join a pre-existing Relay for Life team or create a new one and join other like-minded individuals at the high school’s track on June 6 to raise awareness and funds to fight cancer. ‘Our goal is to get everyone here involved,” she said.

As of Feb. 6, 55 participants had registered to join a total of 12 teams and had already raised $5,103 for the cause. The top three teams, “Team We Care,” “Team Storch,” and “Striding for a Cure,” were recognized on stage for their contributions.

The funds raised help the American Cancer Society to research early detection and prevention and provide comprehensive support to individuals affected by cancer. The society is currently investing more than $405 million towards cancer research.

The evening concluded with a luminaria ceremony, were students, teachers, staff and community members lit candles to remember the lives of those lost to cancer.