Published: Apr 12, 2013 11:44 PM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - Friday night and through Saturday morning, hundreds of people in Lee County are walking laps at the Relay for Life.

55 teams pitched tents outside Hammond Stadium. The goal was to have at least one members from each on walking around the track at all times.

"I had breast cancer, stage four," Therese Lawrence said, proudly displaying her pink scarf.

But, this year's Relay for Life has extra-special meaning. It's her first year, cancer-free. "I'm a survivor!" she proclaimed.

Next year's Relay will be a huge milestone for Mike Bartlow of Fort Myers. "I've got one more year and you'll se a big 50 up there," Bartlow said, pointing to his "49-year survivor" pole.

That's what the relay for life is all about: keeping those stories of survival coming.  Participants worked to raise money for the American Cancer Society. The money helps local patients and funds research to find a cure. The goal is to raise $175,000.

"We are researching a cure but we are also researching the cause," Relay Chair Katie Betz said. "How does cancer happen and how can we stop it from happening?"
This year's theme is "Marga-Relay-Ville," complete with steel drums. Some walkers donated their hair to make wigs for those who've lost theirs.

Donna Upchurch, wife of former Denver Broncos player Rick Upchurch shared his story of diagnosed with leukemia. He's been in remission for six months. "You could be in the best of health, you could have the biggest house, all the money in the world, but when it hits you, it hits you, it doesn't discriminate," Upchurch said. "It's just what you do about it. Not only does ACS stand for American Cancer Society, it stands for Angels Can Soar."  

"In a disease when sometimes you feel really alone, going through your chemo and your treatments, it's a time when you don't feel so alone," said Vikki Skelton, who was diagnosed with cancer last year. "You feel really like you are a part of something and that there are other people who know what you're going."