American Cancer Society fundraiser is already ahead of last year's highly successful debut. Events kicks off at 9 a.m. with  Channel 17 personalities Robin Mangrin and Jim Scott

Taft’s inaugural Relay for Life battle against cancer last year far exceeded expectations.

This year’s event – Saturday and Sunday at Taft Union High School’s Patterson/O’Brien field – has topped its goals before it starts.

Forty-nine teams and 762 participants have raised $77,000 for the fight against cancer even before Channel 17 news personalities Jim Scott and Robin Mangrin lead Saturday morning’s 9 o’clock opening ceremonies.

Last year’s numbers were 35 teams and a total haul of $75,000.

More funds will be generated during the weekend event.

Celebrate, remember, fight back is the theme for the 24-hour walkathon.

Teams will set up campsites ringing the infield at the track, staying overnight while team members take turns circling the track.

But that’s not all that will be happening.

There will be music by three local bands (Westside Dixie Players at 12:15 p.m., Eleven at 4 p.m. and Good Question at 9 p.m.), popular local songstress Baeleigh Bevin will do a concert at 1 p.m. Saturday, a kickboxing demonstration by Next Step Cardio and Fitness Center at 11 a.m., field games at noon with Channel 23 sportscaster Pep Fernandez, a zumba demonstration at 6 p.m., and movies on the big outdoor screen throughout the night.

After husband-wife newscasters Scott and Mangrin preside over the opening ceremonies, cancer survivors will take a ceremonial lap followed by a caregiver lap.

A celebrity from Channel 29 also is expected to make an appearance.

The team parade is scheduled for 10 a.m.

The moving luminaria ceremony will begin at 8 p.m. with more than a thousand candle-lit bags lining the track – each commemorating a cancer victim.

Local hairstylists will be on hand to cut hair that will be used to make wigs for cancer victims.

A Kids Camp also will be set up for children of team members.

Praise and worship services will be held Sunday morning at 7:30 with closing “fight back” ceremonies wrapping up the event at 9.

Event chair LaNell Howell invites people from the community who aren’t on one of the teams to walk too.

“You don’t have to be a member of a team to participate,” she said.

Team captains include Deborah Strosnider, Stacey Hacker-Duncan, Kim McClanahan, Nancy Langkilde, Geneva Merrill, Amanda Houston, Lisa Brown, Justina Howell, Laura Finney-Price, Paula Williams, Quinn Dodson.

Also, Rebecca Martin, Cindy Taylor, Renee Rios, Carolyn Jackson, Andrea Messenger, Vicente Moreno, Debbie Kiser, Debbie Brannon, Melinda Swope, Stephanie Goodman, Cyndy Henderson, Bonita Bullard, Melissa Johnson, Brandon Clark, Melissa Maddox.

Also, Heather Manuz, Betty Cloud, Connie Redfield, Rick Hawkins, Candace Duron, Kelly Donovan, Carolyn Jackson, Brandi Bolivar-Forste, Mary Ann Hagstrom, Sharon Hill, Krista Long, Ramona Payne, Greg Coker, Stefany Ginn, Cindy Brettschneider, and Tami Jones.