Relay for Life steps off at Ida Baker
The football field at Ida S. Baker High was bustling with activity Friday afternoon as event tents and camp sites were set up for the 2010 Cape Coral Relay for Life.
Officially kicking off Friday at 6 p.m., the relay lasts until Saturday at noon and will raise thousands of dollars to benefit the American Cancer Society’s fight against cancer. Event Chair Donna Germain said the event already raised $96,000 as of Friday afternoon but the ultimate goal is $140,000.
“We have everyone setting up camp sites, survivor tents and entertainment,” she said early in the afternoon.
For months various schools, businesses, community associations and families organized teams and raised money for the ACS, meaning the rest of the balance is made through individual sales over the weekend. This month’s theme is “Carnival For The Cure,” based on New Orleans’ famous Mardi Gras celebration.
“This is a large part of our fundraising,” said Germain, referring to the team’s efforts. “Tonight they have a bake sale, or sell beads, masks or Mardi Gras items.”
She said that teams made $50,000 while attending the 2009 event by simply holding raffles or selling items during the relay.
Most Relay for Life team members have personal reasons for participating in one of the premiere events to fight cancer.
Candy’s Team, for instance, was created this year by Candy Wester and her son Joey, a freshman at Oasis High who also acts as team captain. Candy Wester said she’s been on relay teams for the last six years after her husband passed away from cancer in 1999.
“My husband died in my arms from colon cancer,” she said.
The team has approximately 15 members, mostly Joey’s teenage friends, and they raised $300 for the relay. They are selling raffle tickets throughout the event for gift certificates including a massage, jewelry or a haircut. Members of the team are also helping out in other areas of the relay.
“They are helping out with the children’s activities,” said Wester.
Nearby Candy’s Team was the campsite of Tommi’s Angels, a team of about nine members who have been involved with the event since it permanently moved from Fort Myers to Cape Coral. The first city event, “Relay in Paradise,” raised $113,000 in 2002.
“Our mother passed away from ovarian cancer seven years ago,” said Theresa Cross, member of Tommi’s Angels.
Her team raised $1,000 going into the relay Friday night and set up gift baskets for a small raffle they are hosting on the high school football field.
The Fort Myers Relay for Life is also scheduled for April 23-24 at Hammond Stadium, but Cape Coral participants aren’t too worried the event over the bridge will detract people from attending.
“The same people are dedicated to the event in their town,” said Claire Choate, a student at North Fort Myers High and and member of Tommi’s Angels.
Sixty-five teams are signed up for the relay, including local schools, businesses, the Cape Coral Police Department, Cape Coral Fire Department and the American Cancer Society. Organizers said approximately 8,000 people attended the 2009 event.
Crystal Kaczynski, co-chair for the relay, said the economy has only affected large quantity donations, but holding more small fundraisers made up the difference.
After the first Cape Coral Relay for Life in 2002, proceeds grew to as large as $270,000 in 2006 before the economic crash of 2008 drove the total amount to $126,891 in 2009.
“People might not spend large quantities, but the small purchase will make up for it,” said Kaczynski.
She said teams held car washes, bake sales and even held drives with local restaurants.
Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s largest fundraising event.
Besides handing out awards for Best Food, Best Campsites, Best Spirit Stick and Best Costume, there will be live music from Smackdaddy, the Mz Relay Pageant for men and the relay’s version of the classic Gong Show.
Any Relay for Life also features the Luminaria Ceremony, where the names of survivors and those who died due to cancer are illuminated across the relay grounds. Cancer survivors and caregivers also take the first lap before the rest of the teams.