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New year, new hope for Relay For Life gathering

By Staff | Dec 31, 2008

Every year, as more and more people around the world are impacted by the devastation of cancer, a group of concerned island residents become more and more dedicated to fighting the disease.

Even as the 2008 Sanibel-Captiva Relay For Life was winding down, the local chapter of the American Cancer Society-based group had already set their sights on making the 2009 gathering bigger and better than ever before.

On Dec. 18, more than a dozen members of the organization gathered — as they always do — at the Sanibel-Captiva Community Bank on Library Way to discuss the progress they have made in putting together the next Relay, scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 21 and 22 at Sanibel Community Park.

“After my dad died 17 years ago, I got involved right away,” recalled Lisa Newmeyer-Cochrane, chairperson of the island’s Relay For Life committee. “It’s the best way that I could give back and do something that could help get rid of this horrible disease.”

Also in attendance were Alisha Buesing, ACS Staff Partner, Amy Morgan, Carol Strange, Kip Buntrock, Robert Parks, Richard Johnson, Harris Gilbert, Amy Speckman, Kathy Moran, Deb Smith, Sara O’Hara and Beth Burns.

Newmeyer-Cochrane started the meeting by reading their mission statement: “The American Cancer Society is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy and service.”

During the session, Johnson, manager of Bailey’s General Store, displayed a schematic of the Relay showgrounds, located adjacent to the Sanibel Community House. The park “blueprint” showed where the event planners hope to set up the event entrance and registration tents, Relay course, family games and activities. The primary parking location for next month’s event will be across the street, at The Schoolhouse Theater.

Ellen Mayeron, co-chair for the San-Cap Relay committee, joined the fight against cancer after he father succumbed to pancreatic cancer. The Don Mayeron Golf Classic was held for a number of years during the 1990s, she noted.

“Events like this bring out the entire community, including children, in a way that they may want to get active and involved,” Mayeron said. “Sanibel and Captiva are very distinct communities. We are small, but we are definitely pushing the envelope this year to make our event bigger than ever.”

Thus far, seven new team have signed up to participate in the 2009 Relay For Life. Prior to the event, several fundraisers — including this weekend’s inaugural ACS Tennis Challenge at The Sanctuary Golf Club, a donor tree at Jerry’s of Sanibel and Sanibel Island Bookshop contributing a portion of February sales to the cause — have been planned and everyone is getting excited about the prospects of staging the largest Relay yet.

“We’ve got a lot of great sponsors, but we’re still looking for more,” said Newmeyer-Cochrane. “The most important thing we can do is get the word out there.”

“We’re being progressive with the number of daytime activities we’ll be having,” added Mayeron. “People may come out for the music or the games and activities, but we’re hoping that they’ll stay and get educated about our mission and how they can get involved, too.”

Upcoming meetings of the San-Cap Relay For Life Committee include:

• Jan. 8, 15, 22 and 29

• Feb. 5, 12 and 19

Each meeting will be held at Sanibel-Captiva Community Bank, located at 2475 Library Way, and begin at 5 p.m. For additional information, call 239-936-1113 or visit events.cancer.org/rflsanibelfl.

The American Cancer Society’s signature activity, Relay For Life offers everyone in a community an opportunity to participate in the fight against cancer. Here on Sanibel, teams of people dedicated to supporting the cause will even camp out overnight, taking turns walking around the Relay path. Each team, which will adopt the name of a Broadway show in following this year’s event theme “Relay For Life Goes Broadway,” is asked to have a representative on the path at all times throughout the event.

According to the American Cancer Society Web site, “Relay For Life is a life-changing event that brings together more than 3.5 million people to:

• Celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer. The strength of survivors inspires others to continue to fight.

• Remember loved ones lost to the disease. At Relay, people who have walked alongside people battling cancer can grieve and find healing.

• Fight back! We Relay because we have been touched by cancer and desperately want to put an end to the disease.”