Relay For Life participants and supporters will kick off their annual “signature weekend” today at 7 p.m. at South Aiken High School, featuring an overnight walk to raise funds for research and to help patients who have the disease.

Lisa Glass, an American Cancer Society community manager, said this year's event will be especially important since the organization is celebrating a special milestone.

“This one is particularly significant because it's the year that the Cancer Society turns 100,” Glass said. “This is the era that we know we'll finish the fight against cancer. It's very exciting.”

Glass said the impact of the disease reaches deep into communities and can change the lives of anyone, regardless of age, gender or race.

“I've never been in a group setting before where I've asked if someone has not been affected by cancer and seen a hand raised. It doesn't discriminate. You can be young. You can be old. It doesn't matter.”

She explained that the American Cancer Society funds all of its own research and ranks only behind the National Institutes of Health as far as the leading cancer research organizations.

“A lot of progress has been made. We know that 65 percent of cancers are preventable, and we're marching toward the day when they'll be 100 percent preventable.”

The event, which is free and open to the public, will also feature local bands, karate demonstrations and food vendors.

About 500 participants have signed up to walk this year, Glass said, and she expects several thousand to attend.

“It's completely a community event,” she said.

South Aiken High School is located at 232 E. Pine Log Road.

For more information, call Glass at 803-226-9202.

• Michael Ulmer covers the county government beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since March 2013. He is a native of North Augusta and majored in political science at the University of South Carolina.