Relay For Life of the Beaches celebrates life, hope

VERO BEACH — Maureen Pfeil vowed that the sandals on her feet would not leave the track at any time during the nightlong walk to raise funds to fight cancer. The sandals had belonged to her mother, Joan Manney of Spanish Lakes Fairways, who died last November of colon cancer. Pfeil would walk in her mother’s memory and literally in her shoes alongside her father Fred Manney. She was feted as a “Star Supporter” for personally raising $1,500 or more.

“I’m wearing Mom’s sandals for relay. I found these in her closet and they will stay on the track all night even if I’m not in them,” she said with a chuckle. “Mom was tireless in her effort to raise money for the ACS. I’m here for her – it’s all for her.”

The American Cancer Society (ACS) Relay For Life of the Beaches event held April 9-10 transformed Riverside Park’s broad fields into a camp site to host 27 teams of more than 400 Relayers as well as sponsors and hundreds of volunteers of all ages dedicated to fighting cancer while celebrating survivors and remembering those lost to the dread disease. Included were eight teams from Saint Edward’s School from grades 6-12 as well as parents and faculty.

With a theme of “Relay Back in Time,” teams chose an era from the Stone Age through the present and Relayers sported tie-dyed garb from the 1960s as well as Flintstones-styled faux animal skins, Roman togas and Wild West cowboy hats.

Event participants hoped to raise $95,000 and were expected to exceed that goal by the end of the relay.

Relay For Life is the main volunteer-driven cancer fundraising event of the ACS, which begins at nightfall and continues non-stop until the following day. Yet there would be no actual finish line until a cancer cure is found.

difference we can make,” Carter said.

Funds raised by Relay For Life events in 5,000 communities nationwide and in 21 other countries support cancer research, prevention programs, community awareness, patient support programs and early detection and treatment programs.

Cancer kills 500,000 Americans each year. One in three people will receive a diagnosis of cancer during their lifetime. And because of its prevalence, cancer touches countless lives.

Grammy award nominee, pastor and founder of the U.S. Dream Academy Wintley Phipps performed the national anthem, delivered the invocation and led a rousing rendition of “God Bless America” during opening ceremonies. Also featured were a silent auction and live entertainment to help keep relay team members perky and motivated during the event, which concluded at 10 a.m. the next morning.

Relay For Life of the Beaches is one of three relays held countywide, according to Kris Altman, event coordinator and ACS community representative for Indian River County. Other Relay For Life events will be held April 16-17 at Sebastian River High School and April 23-24 at Vero Beach High School. Volunteers are crucial to the success of Relay For Life, Altman said.

“Cancer never sleeps and neither do we. The relay is a party for a purpose because cancer touches everyone. It helps us get the word out about what we do and where to get help,” Altman said.

Nancy Madsen, executive director of the ACS in the Treasure Coast area walked several laps around the track and explained the importance of  Relay For Life.

“This is spectacular and we’re fortunate to have such a generous community to support this. We’ll go over our goal. I spent 33 years working in radiation therapy and I’ve seen many treatment improvements over the years because the ACS funds research,” Madsen said.

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