By Michelle Colesanti

Relay for Life began as the brainchild of Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon in Tacoma, Washington, who wanted to help enhance the income of his local American Cancer Society.  Nine teams participated in that first relay event on the track at the historical Stadium Bowl in Tacoma in 1986.

Every year, more than four million people all over the world now take part to raise much needed funds and awareness to save lives from cancer.

Both Newsome and Bloomingdale Senior High Schools will host a Relay for Life event in the next few weeks.

Relay For Life of FishHawk will take place on Saturday and Sunday, March 23 and 24. The event, which will take place at Newsome High School, 16550 Fishhawk Blvd., in Lithia, will begin at 12 Noon on Saturday and continue through Sunday morning at 6 a.m.

Currently there are about 40 teams with over 700 participants. Last year, $164,000 was raised and Newsome’s Relay event was ranked 16th in Florida.

This year’s theme is “Movies”. Potential teams interested in registering for the Relay For Life of FishHawk can contact Mary Kathryn Kennedy, Team Development Chair at 376-0013 or visit  for more information.

FishHawk resident, Karen Newsome, will be this year’s Survivor Chair. As a 32-year-old wife, mother and microbiologist then living in Cincinnati, Ohio, her life was busy with work and family. Cancer wasn’t part of the picture.

“I found myself becoming increasingly tired,” says the now-42-year-old Fishhawk resident. “I thought it was just the plight of a busy working mom. But when I had to stop midway up the stairs in our old Victorian to rest, I knew something was wrong.”

In November 2002, right before Thanksgiving, Newsome got the shock of a lifetime; she was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer. “I was young, had no family history of colon cancer and really no tell-tale symptoms outside of the fatigue,” said Newsome. “But I had a colonoscopy that showed a mass and then surgery to remove it. The cancer had spread to my lymph nodes and half my colon was removed.”

Newsome encourages all survivors and their caretakers to take part in Relay to show others that cancer is not a death sentence.

Bloomingdale Senior High School will host their Relay For Life of Bloomingdale event on the track at the school, located at 1700 Bloomingdale Ave., in Valrico on Friday and Saturday, April 5 and 6. The event will begin at 6 p.m. and continue through Saturday at 12 Noon. The theme will be “Storybooks”. Currently there are almost 50 teams with over 500 participants. For more information, email Cathy.Vallianatos@

Even if you are not participating on a team, you are welcome to attend either of these Relays in support of those participating. Each Relay begins with a Survivor’s walk. A very solemn and moving Luminiaria ceremony is held when the sun goes down.

The Luminaria Ceremony is a time to remember people lost to cancer and to support those currently battling the disease. The power of this ceremony lies in providing an opportunity for people to work through their grief and find hope.

No matter who you are, there’s a place for you at a Relay For Life event. If you’ve been affected by cancer in any way, being part of the Relay event empowers you to make a difference and fight back. This is your opportunity to honor cancer survivors, remember those that were lost to this disease, and raise funds and awareness to help end cancer forever.

More team participation is welcome at both Relays. For more information on Relay for Life, visit


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Michelle Colesanti
Michelle has been with the Osprey Observer for almost nine years, and her current position is Assignment Editor. She resides in Bloomingdale with her husband Phil, two sons, Philip and Matthew, and Tigger the cat.