By Jodi Hersey

Special to the Weekly

It’s not unusual to see a handsome, dark haired, brown eyed stallion or two running along

the track at the Hollywood Casino Raceway in Bangor. There are tons of them, especially

during harness racing season.

However there’s at least one weekend every summer where the horses take a break from competing in order to make room for another group of animals to shine at the track during the annual Greater Bangor Bark for Life event. There you’ll find dogs of every breed and size along with their owners and hundreds of others who have gathered for this noncompetitive American Cancer Society Relay for Life walking event that raises funds for a cure.

Lisa Sturgeon of Bangor, an avid animal lover and bulldog owner, has been organizing the event since it came to the Queen City in 2012.

“I heard about Bark for Life four years ago when it took place in Bar Harbor. I couldn’t participate that year but I wanted to learn more about getting involved. So I contacted the American Cancer Society and they said why don’t you start your own event in Bangor so I formed a committee and that’s what we did,” explained Sturgeon, Greater Bangor Bark for Life 2014 co-chair.

However, Sturgeon’s deep connection to Bark for Life actually formed months before that during a leisurely trip to Bean town.

“We were in Boston one afternoon and decided to pick up a treat or toy for our bulldog Zuzu. We located a doggie boutique called Audrey’s. When we went in, we met the owner who wanted to know what kind of dog we had and when he found out we had a bulldog he said, ‘You have to meet my wife. She loves bulldogs. The store is actually named for a bulldog.’ So we met his wife Brittany and as it turns out [their dog] Audrey passed away from canine cancer and that’s how this whole thing started. It was in honor of her.”

Since then Sturgeon has learned that bulldogs are one of the leading breeds to get canine cancer. That’s why she works so tirelessly to spread the word about Bark for Life which honors the lifelong qualities of canine caregivers and the companionship they provide to cancer survivors. She also has formed her own team for the event called ‘Team Audrey’ in honor of the Boston doggie boutique.

“I think the biggest challenge is that people think the funds raised goes to canine cancer research,” said Sturgeon. “However all the money raised goes to the American Cancer Society for human cancer research. We want to fight all cancer. That’s our goal.”

Greater Bangor Bark for Life has successfully collected more than $50,000 in donations the past

three years.

“The Bangor Bark for Life is the second largest Bark for Life event to ever be held in New England, right behind Springfield, Massachusetts. That is quite an accomplishment,” explained Mac Watts, American Cancer Society Specialist. “I won’t be surprised to see some other Bark For Life events start up in Maine over the next few years.”

The fourth annual Greater Bangor Bark for Life event will take place 5:30-8 p.m. Saturday, June 13, at the Hollywood Casino Raceway. Folks are encouraged to form teams with co-workers, friends, family members, church groups, fitness buddies or fellow community members and register online at .relayforlife.org/BarkForLife.

“We’ve had people travel from all across the state to be part of the event,” said Sturgeon. “I don’t think I’ve met anyone, pet or human, who hasn’t been touched by cancer.”

The event, which will be emceed by WVII TV’s Craig Colson and Townsquare Media’s Cindy Campbell, includes various doggy contests and demonstrations. Food will be available as well as pet themed and community vendors on site.

The night will end with a one-lap walk of remembrance around the track in honor of those who’ve lost the battle with cancer.

“Each event is unique, characterized very much by the community it is held in,” said Watts. “My family and friends all know how much I love dogs, so many of them told me this was right up my alley. It was such an amazing event [last year] and I got to meet so many wonderful dogs and their owners.”

Registration for Bark for Life is $25 per person, $10 to cancer survivors. Participants will receive a T-shirt for themselves and a bandana for their canine companion.

Teams can consist of as few as two people or as many as 100. Vendors, sponsors and

those interested in volunteering may contact the Greater Bangor Bark for Life Committee by

emailing greaterbangorbarkforlife@gmail.com or by messaging them on Facebook.

“Unlike Relay for Life, we’re only a three-hour event. The night is all about having fun, raising funds for cancer research and remembering those who are battling the disease in an upbeat way with our canine companions,” explained Sturgeon.