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Cape Relay for Life sets lofty goal

By Staff | Mar 21, 2009

Hundreds kicked off the annual Relay For Life celebration at Ida S. Baker High School Friday night. Organizers hope that by noon today, they will have raised more $150,000 to help eradicate cancer.
Relay For Life is one of the largest local events in Cape Coral. It started in 1986 when 19 teams in Washington raised $33,000 and today it has spawned into a national event. Now it delivers millions of dollars to the American Cancer Society annually.
“It makes me speechless to see so many of you out there,” said Mary O’Toole, event chair shortly after the event began at 6 p.m. Friday.
Each year the relay has grown substantially and new groups have signed up. The Cape Coral High School JROTC enrolled this year for the first time and raised $813.78 in two weeks.
Tracey Demarest, community representative, said that as of Friday night the relay had collected $95,000, a little more than half of the total goal this year. Contributions were accepted throughout the rest of the night and the grand total will be announced Saturday afternoon.
For the relay, teams sign up to walk the high school track throughout the night while raising money for cancer. This year’s honorary chairperson was Chansen Savakinus, a second grade student at Oasis Charter, who was diagnosed with cancer and couldn’t attend the opening celebration because of his health.
It’s kicked off every year with a first lap by survivors of cancer and a second lap with their caregivers. Following is the remainder of the walkers who carry spirit sticks as they relay.
When the sun sets on Friday night many of the attendants light a luminaria, or a small bag with a candle inside, to honor someone who has survived or passed away from cancer. One organizer selling luminarias at the high school said she sold more than 100, but many of them were purchased online in advance.
Throughout the night the relay holds spirit stick judging, cook-off contests, activities for children, karaoke, live music and a pajama contest. The theme for this year’s relay was “Marga-relay-ville.”
Cheryl Leftwich, a member of the American Cancer Society board, said all of the proceeds will go to finding a cure. More than $100 million from events all over the country will be applied to cancer research.
“Everything you are doing this evening will go towards saving someone’s life,” said Leftwich. “That is why we relay, to provide services to our survivors.”
According to the American Cancer Society, there were 1.4 million new cases of cancer reported in 2008 and it is considered the second leading cause of death.