Teams gearing up for Relay for Life
Teams are gearing up to take part in the Greater Lee County Relay for Life set for Saturday, April 28, at the Lakes Regional Park in Fort Myers.
The Relay is an all-day event to open at 10 a.m. featuring games, activities, food and drink vendors, live music, and relay races to raise money for local cancer initiatives.
“The money that we raise here in Lee County stays local said Cheryl Carbone, the captain for Team Kaleidoscope, a Relay for Life fundraising group representing the downtown Fort Myers government employees and their friends and families. “The money goes toward cancer patients rides to doctor appointments, if they have to get treatment out of town, the funds will cover the hotel costs. The money goes to help people suffering from cancer locally.”
Carol Scott, the co-captain of Team Pirates, says the local need for cancer services is increasing.
“Lee county is really growing. As our population grows, our needs are going to grow and we want to make everyone aware,” said Scott.
This year, the Relay for Life has expanded from Cape Coral to the entire Greater Lee County area. Ashley Robbins, an event leader for the Relay on behalf of American Cancer Society said the decision to expand was made to pool more funds.
“In an effort to bring more funds to the services the American Cancer Society provides several Relays across Florida have been combined. The greater Lee County Relay now includes Lehigh Acres, Fort Myers and Cape Coral,” said Robbins.
Carbone started volunteering for Team Kaleidoscope in 2002 when her sister-in-law Tammy Platten asked her to get involved. Neither Carbone nor Platten had cancer, but her mother in law did, which sparked their involvement. This year Cheryl’s brother, who is also Platten’s husband, was diagnosed with stomach cancer, which makes them even more passionate about the relay.
“Every time we keep saying we’re not going to do this again this year, we keep finding out that somebody else has cancer or somebody has passed away with cancer and it gets near dear to our hearts and we have to do it again.”
The sobering reality that cancer can permeate our lives or our loved ones’ keeps everyday people fighting for the cause.
“Cancer shows no age, it shows no discrimination,” said Carbone, who’s hoping her brother recovers from surgery quickly enough to participate in the relay. “It puts it more into perspective this year probably more than ever.”
Every team has a unique background. Scott got involved in the Relay for Life for Team Pirates in 2008, who gathered her colleagues to form their own team after their corporate employer stopped doing Relay for Life.
“Our company stopped doing the relay but we wanted to continue it. So we pulled ourselves together and did our first relay in 2008.” Scott said the Team Pirates wanted to help support those who have battled cancer and to support relay for life.
“There’s nobody who hasn’t had a family member, it has just touched every one of us. I’ve lost my parents and some of the Pirates team members lost both their moms and dads.” Scott was impassioned to get involved in Relay for Life because of her niece Sheena, who became diagnosed with cancer when she was only 8 years old.
“It’s a tough battle for a little fella to fight. Our family really came together and she had a really strong support group. The doctors in Lee County were really great and took care of her.”
Sheena was fortunate to recover. She is now 29 years old, and turning 30 in May.
“Those are the kinds of things that never leave you,” said Scott.
The Relay for Life will not include any running races this year, but will include a cupcake eating contest, a “get me out of jail” fundraiser game, live band music, food, and fun games for kids and families.
There will also be a luminaria ceremony at 9 p.m. to commemorate those who are sick with or have passed from cancer. Bagpipes will play before a moment of silence as luminaria bags donated by surviving loved ones are lit during the event’s last hour.
“Its meaningful for us but at the same time we have a great time doing it, because we’re pirates. Pirates love to have fun. We get the children engaged, campsites, games, jeep for selfies. Every year we have something for the children and we think it’s important to have them involved,” said Scott, who encourages families to attend the free event.
All the money will go toward the American Cancer Society and be kept toward local cancer patient initiatives such as patient services and a Hope Lodge where families can stay while loved ones receive treatment.
“It’s really amazing how a disease can financially wipe you out, and next thing you know you can’t even drive yourself to treatment,” said Scott.
“My team is very passionate of raising the money and trying to get the word out to people of to go see your doctor, go get your mammograms, and keep up with it because you just never know.” said Carbone, captain of Team Kaleidoscope.
One of the Kaleidoscope’s longstanding leaders and “team husband” was recently diagnosed with cancer this year, with a prognosis of six months.
“You just never know who’s going to have it and that’s why we really, you just don’t know. You look at somebody walking down the street and you just don’t know who’s going to have cancer. You think it’s not going to be you and then you go see a doctor, and the next thing u know, you’ve got it,” said Carbone.
Cancer’s potential impact on lives gets many people who aren’t diagnosed involved with Relay.
“We not only participate in Relay for Life because of people who are currently going through cancer, we also participate for ourselves. For in the future anyone of us might hear the words ‘you have cancer’ and need to utilize the life changing services and research the American Cancer Society provides,” said Robbin.
Many of the Relay Teams are active all year long to brining awareness to cancer. Team Pirates host year round garage sales.
“We’re Pirates. We’re happy to pilfer. We’ll take anyone’s money,” joked Scott, who makes sure all her donors know the funds go directly toward cancer patient services.
Team Kaleidoscope stays active year-round too by visiting Florida’s capitol on cancer prevention initiatives.
If you are a business, school, or friend group, you can sign up to become a team. As a team you receive a space where you can set up a 10×10 tent with a table and decorate to the Decade theme this year. If you would like to raise money for the American Cancer Society you can join the Relay and become a team with no registration fee at www.relayforlife.org/greaterleefl. This site is also where you can also find Team Kaleidoscope’s page and Team Pirates page to make donations. Cancer survivors are encouraged to come to this event, and will be given special gifts and honored during the opening ceremony.
Lakes Regional Park is off 7330 Gladiolus Drive in Fort Myers.