It will be an 18th birthday like no other when thousands of people gather to be part of the Hills Relay For Life on May 18.

The annual community gathering at Castle Hill Showground attracts thousands of people of all ages and last year, it raised more than $320,000 for cancer research and support programs. It is not a race and participants can walk just one lap or multiple laps during the 24-hour event.

So far more than 70 teams have registered including church teams, schools, businesses, service clubs and teams of families and friends. The Hills SES has a team as does The Wanderers Bushwalking Club, The Circular Keys Chorus and veterans from the Castle Hill RSL sub-branch. Proceedings start at 9.30am and the first lap at 10am is reserved for cancer survivors and carers which is followed by a morning tea hosted by Soroptimist International of the Hills.

James Butler and Leonie Schouten (pictured) are both cancer survivors. James, a long-time Cancer Council volunteer who is on the board of Cancer Council NSW was first diagnosed with Stage 4 Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer, in 1993.

Four years later it had returned. “In the four years between the first and second diagnosis there had been a lot of advances in research,” he said. One of those advances was a stem cell transplant which he underwent in 1997. Thanks to cancer research, advances in treatment and successful prevention and screening programs, 61,000 lives have been saved in the last 20 years in Australia according to the Cancer Council.  Leonie, a mother of two, is a breast cancer survivor. She said: “Relay is important to me as we are raising important funds for all cancers. It is great to see the survivors and it is so encouraging to see the community working together for a great cause.” As well as all day entertainment plus stalls and sideshows on Saturday, writer Bev Jordan will be having her head shaved at 4pm. There will also be a head shave for school students at 8pm.

Highlight of the evening will be The Twilight Candlelight ceremony of Hope at 6pm.

Registration is $30 which includes a purple Relay For Life Shirt.

On Sunday, May 19 dogs can join their owners from 7.30am to 9.30am.

Dog registration is an additional $5 and includes a bandana.

For details visit cancercouncil.org.au/hillsrelay or the Hills Relay For Life Facebook or call jenny on 9354 2078.