The Relay for Life event in North Perth passed two milestones on the weekend, celebrating its fifth year and over $500,000 raised in the fight against cancer.The Listowel Agricultural Society fairgrounds were buzzing with excitement again on June 11 for the kickoff of the fifth annual event. Speakers at the opening ceremonies brought words of inspiration and hope, including those from Perth-Wellington MPP John Wilkinson. This year's Relay for Life was a more personal event for Wilkinson, saying that his mother had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last March and passed away two days later. "It means a lot to me to be here, sharing grief and love and hope with the good people here in North Perth," he said. North Perth Mayor Ed Hollinger said that the fundraising effort by Relay for Life teams was noticeable this year, with many garage sales dedicated to the cause and raising anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to over a thousand. "That's the type of future we have in trying to raise funds for this particular event and keep it going," he said. "We do need the money and cancer will be cured."Janis Cunningham, manager of the Huron-Perth unit of the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) said she always feels welcomed back each year for the North Perth Relay for Life, and that the CCS is the best partner available in the fight against cancer. "We have more impact against more cancers in more communities than any other cancer charity in Canada," she said. "We do everything we can to prevent cancer, save lives and support those living with cancer."Much in the same way, Cunningham said the best partners the CCS could have are the people who work tirelessly at gathering pledges and enduring a long night of walking with a smile on their face. "The most important thing you are doing here tonight is fighting back against cancer," Cunningham said. "By fighting back, you are setting an example to others and inspiring them to do the same."The opening ceremonies also shared the story of Nancy Bartman and her daughters Deanne Deelstra, Anita Felkar and Christine Reyes. Nancy was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, then Anita and Deanne were both diagnosed with the same cancer later. Through testing, it was discovered that the family shared a genetic link that made them more susceptible to hereditary colorectal cancer. However, the family was grateful for events like the Relay for Life that improved cancer research and early detection. Father Elroy Bartman was emotional as he expressed his pride for his family. "No dad could ever be prouder of their kids than I am now," he said. "They are living proof that cancer can be beaten."Relay for Life chair Kathleen Mack said this year's event raised $89,354, making a grand total of $570,634 raised in North Perth over five years. Although the number of teams was low this year with 31, the amount raised by each team was significant, Mack said. "The fundraising and team commitment has definitely increased," she said.It also marked the first year that the North Perth Relay for Life was able to give a gold award to a team for raising over $10,000, going to Jim's Jujubes. Two bronze awards for raising over $5,000 were given out as well to teams Cancer Fighters and Listowel Central's Painkillers, their second year in a row. Amazingly, Mack said teams are already making fundraising plans for next year's event, and the planning committees won't get much of a rest before they start looking ahead to Relay for Life 2011. "Every year, we ask how we can make it better, and we seem to do it," Mack said.