Santa Monica — known as a strong-knit and active community in all that relates to health, fitness, and health-related legal issues — once again supported the American Cancer Society annual Relay for Life Saturday, July 24th.

Participants at the event spread their colorfully decorated tents across Corsair Field at Santa Monica College to raise cancer awareness and funds.

Teams, made up of co-workers, family and friends, walked or ran around the track in shifts keeping one member on the track at all times.

Following the notion that cancer doesn’t sleep, this unusual 24-hour fundraiser was one big slumber party.

Relay for Life introduces communities to an innovative and more personal way to fundraise.

A grassroots event, its success relies on the involvement of local businesses, individuals, hotels, restaurants, hospitals and other organizations. Each team is encouraged to have pre-event socials to reach its financial goal, creating many fundraisers within a fundraiser.

“What makes this so unique is that the personality of the community is stamped all over it,” said Ernesto Morales, publicity chair for the event.

The fundraiser is community-run and -sponsored and the city takes ownership of the event and works hard to involve corporations, individuals and businesses.

Santa Monica locals such as the Santa Monica Police Department, Santa Monica firefighters, Trader Joe’s, the Double Tree Hotel, and ABRAXIS Oncology of Santa Monica sponsored the event or had booths and tents set up as well as participants on the track raising money with each lap.

Sonki Hong, founder of Sonki Fitness in Santa Monica, easily enlisted the help of clients and friends with creative fundraising.

“People are approached for money all the time and they’re more inclined to donate if you can make it unique and fun,” Hong said.

He made it just that by hosting a cocktail party at the hot Santa Monica restaurant Akwa a few days before the relay.

“I approached the owner and told him it was for charity,” Hong said. “The owner set aside a portion of the restaurant, served appetizers, and provided a DJ for dancing, all at no charge.

“The people who came donated $10 at the door, ate good food and had a great time.”

Hong also raised money by pushing his body to do 302 push-ups, 302 sit-ups, 102 pull-ups, and a three-mile run — all in 46 minutes.

Others, like cancer survivor Linda Lovett, formed a team and raised money through a book fair, a yard sale, and a vendor sale and through corporate sponsorships. Her family and friends jumped at the chance to support her efforts, and at the event itself her team continued to raise money by painting tattoos and selling handmade jewelry and purses.

Everyone involved in the event seemed to have a personal connection with someone who has gone through cancer.

Volunteers and team members said the draw to this fundraiser was the opportunity to spend 24 hours with people they care about, experience camaraderie with their own community and basically have a good time centered around something really important.

A community gahering also benefits the businesses involved.

According to Debora Wright, president of the LA Coastal Cities Unit Board for the American Cancer Society, the event provides a tremendous advertising opportunity for local businesses. At the event the businesses had their signs displayed, held a raffle, gave away materials or their product or set up a booth and sold items to raise money.

Relay for Life represents not only the dedication and commitment of participants to finding a cure for cancer, but it reaches beyond a cause to include a community.

There’s no pressure to cross the finish line first, and all of the volunteers and participants in this event win.

And for those who have lost the battle, the Santa Monica community put its best foot forward to continue the fight in their honor.

Donations for this event are being accepted until the end of August. Anyone who has a creative idea for a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society may call Ernesto Morales at (310) 721-6613.