That staggering reality is one of the many things that motivates millions each spring to take part in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life to raise money for cancer awareness and research.
More than 3.5 million people will take part in relays across the nation this year, the 25th anniversary of the first Relay for Life, including the hundreds of Robeson County residents who packed Brooks Stadium at Lumberton High School over the weekend.
The Robeson County 2009 Relay for Life raised a record-setting $215,000, said event Chairperson Robin Jones, and the money is still coming in.
"I can say with confidence that we will acheive our goal of $220,000," Jones said.
This year, 78 teams gathered at the football stadium and made it home for 24 hours, with teams constantly walking the track, beginning at 2 p.m. Friday.
For many of the organizers, Friday began much earlier as they began setting up the stadium at 10 a.m. that day. Jones was still going strong in the last 30 minutes of the relay on Saturday afternoon. She looked tired and wired but happy and proud.
Chewing on a green sucker and wearing sunglasses, she said this year's relay was a huge success.
"It was wonderful! I've never seen the parking lot so full. Everyone kept saying this was the best year ever. It was so much fun. The energy level ... it was a wonderful atmosphere. And we had great weather," Jones said. "It's really been a great experience and I couldn't have done it without the event committee and the corporate sponsors."
County Commissioner Noah Woods served as Honorary Chairperson for 2009.
In all, the 78 teams that took part comprised 2,527 participants. And that didn't include the hundreds of folks who came out Friday night for opening ceremonies, the Survivor Lap, Caregiver Lap, and more. Good food, rousing entertainment and plenty of activities for the children kept the large crowd happy.
"This is the largest event Robeson County has hosted," said organizer Linda Burney. "We challenged the community this year: What would you do with a 25th hour? ... And they came out big."
Burney was pleased to see so much money being raised during such a tough economic period.
"The mission is very much alive in Robeson County," Burney said.
The highlight of Friday evening was the solemn luminaria Ceremony of Hope, held after dark to honor cancer survivors and to remember loved ones lost to cancer.
The running track was lined with white sacks bearing the names of loved ones, and bright flickering votive candles inside each, and on the visitor's bleachers hundreds of bags were used to spell out HOPE.
Lisa Hendren, chair of the luminaria ceremony and vice chairperson of the relay, was completing her 14th year at the relay. She was on the American Cancer Society board 14 years ago when it organized the area's first Relay for Life.
Hendren said the huge crowd was evidence of how cancer "touches so many lives." The names on each luminary were read by Hendren, with the help of Amanda Mears and the Rev. Mike McGehee.
"I'm elated we've done so well with the economy the way it is," said Hendren. "It shows you that people are still willing to give to a worthy cause."
"I've been here all night," said a tired-looking Barbara Mullis of Lumberton on Saturday. She was the team captain for West Lumberton Baptist Church. Her husband Bruce is a cancer survivor.
They were joined at the stadium by 11-year-old daughters Brooke and Lauren.
"They walked and played all night. It was such a fun event, and the largest turnout I've ever seen," said Mullis, who's attended the Robeson County event the last eight years.
There were many first-time corporate sponsors this year, including McNeill Jewelers. John McNeill and his wife Betsy were on hand for Friday's activities. Betsy is a cancer survivor and walked in the Survivor's Lap.
Store manager Rodney Stone, working the booth near the track, said it looked like the company's fund-raising would bring in $12,000 this year.
McNeill employees raised the money through an assortment of events, including bake sales and yard sales. A $1,000 gift certificate was offered and helped sell a lot of raffle tickets, they said.
"It's very emotional," said Betsy of the relay and the employees' money-raising efforts. "It brings back memories and we're grateful we can walk another year. We're very proud of the employees."
Donations can also be mailed to the American Cancer Society, 4343 NC Hwy 211, Lumberton, N.C. 28358.
For more information, call (910) 733-6780 or visit the Web site at www.relayforlife.org/robesonnc.