By Laura Brown

Triplicate staff writer

Teams are lacing up their running shoes in preparation for the Fourth Annual Relay for Life set to begin tonight at 6 p.m.

The event is the grand finale of the American Cancer Society's local fund-raising efforts.

Even before one lap was walked, team members raised $115,000 through garage sales, concerts, basketball shoot-outs and variety shows.

Organizers are hopeful that as much as $175,000 will be generated. Last year's total was $143,000.

The money helps local families with transportation costs to medical care outside the area and also goes toward cancer research.

andquot;By the time the relay rolls around, the majority of the money has been raised already. It's a big celebration and a memorial of people who have been lost and are still fighting,andquot; said Publicity Chairwoman Michelle Hart.

Hart said Del Norte County has raised more money in the relay per capita during the last two years than any other county in California.

This year a special dedication will be made to past-Chairman Jay Barneburg who died in May of prostate cancer.

Barneburg was well loved by those involved with the American Cancer Society for his dedication to getting Relay for Life started in Del Norte County, Hart said.

andquot;He was the primary driving force for all of us,andquot; she said.

The festivities will begin this afternoon with a dinner for cancer survivors at 4 p.m. in the Crescent Fire Hall Dining Room. Then, at 6 p.m., the public is invited to attend the opening ceremonies.

Survivors will begin the relay by making the first lap, followed by their family members for the second round. The 24-hour event will then start with 52 teams keeping at least one team member walking, jogging or running around the track day and night.

Shortly after dark, the Ceremony of Hope, also known as the Luminary Ceremony, will illuminate the track with hundreds of candles in white paper bags, dedicated to those lost to cancer. The candles will burn the entire night during the relay.

The event includes an auction with more than 200 items.