By Kate Quesada

FishHawk and Bloomingdale area residents have two opportunities to help fight cancer coming up with Relay for Life events taking place at local high schools.

On Saturday, April 8, students and community members will join teams at Newsome High School to walk, camp overnight, and participate in other activities to raise funds for the American Cancer Society (ACS), while the relay at Bloomingdale High School, with similar events, will take place on Friday, May 12.

According to Relay for Life Community Manager Samantha Schneider, 49 teams with varying numbers of participants are currently signed up for Newsome’s Disney themed event which has a goal of raising $175,000. The Bloomingdale High School event, with a party theme, is hoping to raise $60,000 with 29 teams currently committed.

“Relay for Life is the signature fundraiser for the ACS,” said Newsome Relay Event Chair Rachel Andrews. “This is a community based event because we believe it is time to take action against cancer as a community. Our goal is to show that together, as a community, we can make a difference against cancer.”

The events are not traditional relays, although teams are asked to have one participant walking the track at all times, even through the night, to signify that cancer never sleeps.

During the times participants are not walking the track they will be able to join in a large number of other activities planned including dodgeball, Zumba, musical chairs, Mr. and Mrs. Relay, lip sync and frozen shirt contests. According to Andrews, some of the activities will be free and some will have a small cost.
One of the highlights of Relay for Life events for participants is the Luminaria Ceremony which will take place at 9 p.m. at both schools.

“During the Luminaria Ceremony we honor survivors and remember those who have lost their battle with cancer,” said Schneider. “It is a time to grieve for those we have lost, to reflect on our own or loved ones cancer experience and to find hope that tomorrow holds the promise of a cancer-free world.”

The tracks go dark during the ceremony and bags can be purchased and decorated the day of the event.

All money raised at the event goes to ACS’s mission to save lives, celebrate lives and lead the fight for a world without cancer.
“In doing so we provide free programs and services to cancer patients and their families including transportation to and from treatment, lodging during treatments and our Look Good Feel Better program,” said Schneider.

Kelley Kilpatrick, event lead for the Bloomingdale relay, is a pediatric oncology nurse who believes that several of her patients are alive today thanks to medications funded by the ACS.

“A lot of my patients also use the programs like the Wig Closet, and some families and patients use the ACS National Cancer Information phone line that you can call 24 hours a day to be empowered with accurate, up to date information, and valuable resources and services.”

The Newsome event, located on the school track at 16550 FishHawk Blvd. in Lithia runs from 12 Noon on Saturday, April 8 to 6 a.m. April 9. Whereas Bloomingdale High School, located at 1700 E. Bloomingdale Ave. in Valrico, will start at 6 p.m. on May 12 and will end at 6 a.m. the next morning.

Residents are encouraged to sign up to participate in either event at www.relayforlife.org, but the community is also encouraged to come out to support the fundraisers at the events, even if they are not part of a team.

For more information, contact Schneider at 319-5920.