The first big steps in this year’s Midlothian’s Relay For Life have been taken.

Five major sponsors have stepped to the plate and have combined to donate at total of $50,000 to the Midlothian American Cancer Society fundraiser that is seeking to find a cure for cancer.

“These are the heavy hitters,” said Molly Rutty, Relay coordinator for the American Cancer Society. “These sponsors underwrite the event and that allows every dollar raised by teams and individuals go to fighting cancer.”

Midlothian Relay For Life corporate sponsors and the amount they donated are:

• Ash Grove Cement - $15,000.

• Baylor Medical Center Waxahachie - $10,000.

• Holcim Cement - $10,000.

• TXI Cement - $10,000.

• Gerdau AmeriSteel - $5,000.

Corporate sponsors Ash Grove, Holcim, TXI, and Gerdau AmeriSteel gathered in Heritage Park Monday to hand their checks to Midlothian Relay For Life Chairman Shelia Lock.

“We can always use more sponsors, but these companies have gotten the ball rolling,” said Lock. “Our corporate sponsors play a key part in making Relay in Midlothian a big success.”

Lock said everyone has a different reason for getting involved in Relay For Life.

“My mother died from cancer in 1988 and I’ve got family members who are cancer survivors,” said Lock. “Relay For Life is a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun, too. And it’s for such a good cause - finding a cure for cancer.”

Corporate sponsors also offered a variety of reasons for being a part of Midlothian’s Relay For Life.

“Our company has been doing this for years and we feel everyone has to deal with cancer in their life or their families’ life at some time,” said Michel Moser, Holcim plant manager. “Our employees also support Relay and we support our employees. We had one team that did 1,000 laps last year.”

Randy Walser, TXI plant manager said Relay For Life is a fun event and is a unified way for TXI to fight cancer.

“Our employees always put together several teams and it’s always a fun evening for a good cause,” said Walser. “Many in our TXI family have either been touched by cancer personally or had family members with cancer. Relay is something we are proud to be part of.”

Kevin Blankenship, plant manager of Ash Grove Cement, said cancer touches many lives and Ash Grove has supported Relay with financial contributions and also by encouraging employees to staff Relay for Life committees and teams.

“Ash Grove has been heavily involved in the local Relay For Life event for the past three or four years,” said Blankenship. “We have employees who have fought this disease and Ash Grove is glad to be a part of something that is trying to find a cure for cancer.”

American Cancer Society statistics indicate one-in-four people will contract some form of cancer over their lifetime.

Relay For Life is the American Cancer Society’s largest community fundraiser and this year’s event will be held in Midlothian on Friday night May 16-17 at Walnut Grove Middle School.

“We are still looking for people who want to form a team,” said Lock. “Teams are usually made up of from eight to 16 people and each team member is asked to raise $100.

“And raising $100 to fight cancer really isn’t that hard,” said Lock. “It’s as simple as asking five people to each donate $20 or asking 10 people to donate $10.”

Rutty added the American Cancer Society has all the information on forming a team in a neat little packet.

“A phone call to me or Shelia can get you that packet,” said Rutty. “We’ve streamlined the process over the years and made it as simple as possible. All we need is a commitment and we’ll walk you through the process.”

Lock can be reached at 972-723-6210. Rutty can be reached at ACS headquarters in Dallas at 972-795-0815.

Relay For Life is an overnight community celebration where individuals and teams camp-out, barbecue, dance and take turns walking around a track relay-style to raise funds to fight cancer. At nightfall, participants will light hundreds of Luminaria around the track in a moving ceremony to honor cancer survivors, as well as friends and family members lost to the disease.

“New this year is a ‘Fight Back Ceremony,’ where people say how they are going to fight cancer in the upcoming year,” said Rutty. “They may pledge to host a Relay walking team next year, they may decide to eat healthier or they may decide to quit smoking.

“We have three phrases or goals for every Relay event,” Rutty said. “We want to celebrate, we want to remember and we want to fight back.”

Relay For Life is a community event that honors cancer survivors, current cancer patients and caregivers.

Relay also pays tribute to those who have lost their battle with cancer.

Individuals, churches, civic groups and businesses usually round up a team of between eight and 15 people. The team is charged with soliciting donations that are used to fight cancer.

Relay For Life is also an opportunity for the community to come together and learn more about combating cancer.

Rutty said they have already signed up 18 teams to walk and have a goal of 60.

“We all know someone who has had this disease,” said Rutty. “We are winning the war against cancer and it’s because of events like Relay For Life that we are finding cures and preventing cancer.”

Last year Midlothian Relay For Life raised $160,000 for cancer research, education and advocacy.

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 85,570 new cases of cancer diagnosed in Texas this year. Nationally more than 1,399,790 cases of cancer will be diagnosed in 2008.

About 76 percent of all cancers are diagnosed in persons 55 and older and cancer is the second most common cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease.