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Relay for Life fund raiser steps off

By Staff | Apr 5, 2008

Cape Coral’s seventh annual Relay for Life kicked off Friday night as teams of cancer survivors, caretakers and others began their 18-hour walk around Mariner High School’s athletic field to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

According to relay committee member Greg Frith, about 75 teams made up of various sizes were set to participate in the walk from 6 p.m. Friday to noon today.

Greg’s wife, Terry Frith, co-chaired the event with Mary Otoole. Greg is an employee of Fire Service, which donated the use of trucks and generators.

“They’re fighting this every day,” said Greg about cancer survivors. “This is a way for family members to fight back.”

More than 400 cancer survivors were expected to attend the charitable walk Friday night, with a total of about 3,000 to 4,000 people enjoying the overnight activities.

The opening ceremony began at 6 p.m. when the Cape Coral Elementary Choir sang the “Star Spangled Banner” for a cheering crowd of event-goers, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance with the Cape Coral Police Department Honor Guard and a brief prayer.

Following the prayer, cancer survivors were asked to lead the first lap of the walk, joined by their care givers in the second lap, and finally by other team members.

“This changes the way I thought about a lot of things,” said Cape cancer survivor Sean Taylor about the Relay for Life. Taylor wore a purple T-shirt with the word “survivor” printed on the back, identical to those worn by hundreds of others walking the field and enjoying activities.

Taylor was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, he said. His family and team, Bealfour Beatty Construction, were there to support Taylor and participate in the walk.

Ed Hughes, whose wife Marie Hughes was the honorary survivor’s chair for this year’s relay, said he’s extremely proud of Marie. She had cancer in 2003, but overcame the adversity of the disease and survived, he said.

“My wife is an amazing person,” said Hughes. “It’s heartwarming, I’m glad to be here.”

Marie said it was her first year participating in the Relay for Life.

For those who weren’t walking, various tents were set up to sell food, books, games and more to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Each booth brought to life a different movie as part of this year’s theme, including “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Star Wars,” “Across the Universe,” “The Lion King” and more.

“It’s fantastic,” said Theresa Cross, team captain for Tommi’s Angels. “This is always such a great experience.”

Cross has taken part in the event for seven years, she said. The team consisted of seven members, who were either walking or selling used books to raise money for ACS, part of the team’s “Across the Universe” theme.

Tommi D’Angelo, for whom the team was named, died of ovarian cancer five years ago, said Cross.

The books, which belonged to Cross and her family, ranged several generations, and those that do not sell will be donated to local libraries and Good Will, she said.

Dispersed among the walkers were those wearing neon green Mariner High School shirts, volunteer staff and students.

One such student, high school senior and National Honor Society member Jocelyn Michaud, helped sell snacks to raise money for the cause.

Michaud said it was her first year volunteering for the relay, and that she got involved because her grandmother was affected by breast cancer.

“Mariner thinks it’s a great cause,” said Michaud.

Lindsey Cook, a Spanish-language teacher at Mariner, co-captained the high school team with fellow teacher Laura Chapman.

Cook said it was her first year participating, but she also had family affected by the disease. She credits her fifth period class with pushing her to participate as co-captain.

Between 40 and 50 Mariner students participated, she said. The team sold animal crackers to keep with a “Lion King” theme.

Other scheduled activities included a candle-lit luminaria ceremony where all participants take a lap together to honor those who have passed from cancer and those still fighting; live music and additional performances, as well as a “Mz. Relay” contest where men from each team dress up as women.

Due to the economy, event coordinators have not placed a dollar goal this year.