SEBASTIAN – Dressed as referees, bowling pins, boxers and golfers, approximately 500 cancer survivors, their caregivers, friends and family took to the track at the Sebastian River High School stadium to bring awareness and raise funds for cancer research.
“You guys continue to amaze me,” American Cancer Society Community Representative Kris Altman told the crowd of volunteers and participants shortly before the relay began.
More than three dozen teams set up tents and booths promoting their cause – “Reeling in a Cure,” “Knock Down Cancer,” “Striking Out Cancer,” “Dodging Cancer through Prevention,” all sports related themes.
“No one isn’t affected,” Coastal Community Church Pastor Seth Goldsmith said of cancer. “We’ll do whatever we can.”
The walking began with one cancer survivor telling her story of how she found out she had breast cancer.
“It’s a funny story, actually,” Audrey Gemberling said, launching into the fateful day more than a year and a half ago.
Gemberling had gone to pick up her daughter, Anna, from daycare and on the way home.
“Mom, when are you going to get your boobs squeezed?” Anna asked out of the blue.
Taken aback, Gemberling wasn’t sure where Anna had picked up such an outlandish question, much less if she actually knew what it meant.
Later, Gemberling did a self-exam and a week later went to the doctor for a mammogram.
“We had a long talk,” Gemberling said after the diagnosis. “Mom’s got cancer and we have to fight.”
She is now an 18-month cancer survivor.
Lucy Lovely, member of the Dr. Merchant’s Maniacs relay team, got involved because her 21-year-old daughter is an ovarian cancer survivor. Samantha Lovely was diagnosed with the cancer when she was just 17, Lovely said.
Samantha’s been in remission for about a year and was out on the track walking at the start of the relay.
The Maniacs, as part of their fund-raising efforts, were selling women’s shoes provided by Tootsie’s, a shoe store located on Ocean Drive in Vero Beach on the barrier island.
The store’s owner, Sheryl Showerman, donated the shoes for the fund-raiser.
Sebastian River High Principal Daniel Gilbertson said he was honored to have his school play host to the Relay For Life.
“It was pretty much an easy decision,” he said when approached by organizers to once again have the event at the stadium. “It’s a touching experience.”
Principal Gilbertson credited teacher Wylie Green for organizing the school’s portion of the event, coordinating the facility, custodial staff and others.
“It’s pretty impressive what he’s done,” the principal said.
The North Indian River Relay For Life’s fund-raising goal this year is $95,000 – a finally count was not available as of publication.
The North Indian River Relay For Life was sponsored by the following businesses:
Bay Street Pharmacy & Home Health Care
Cancer Care Center of Sebastian
Disney’s Vero Beach Resort
Dr. Nicola Ally
Laura Peterson/ReMax Crown Realty
Sebastian River Medical Center
The family of Carol Stocker
Vero Radiology Associates
This year’s teams included:
American Security Council
Bank of America
Bay Street Pharmacy and Home Health Care
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s
Cancer Care Challengers
Capp Custom Builders
Capt. Hiram’s Finest
Coastal Community Church
Dave E. Hedges Insurance Agency
Dr. Merchant’s Maniacs
Dust Bunnies Cleaning and Home Care
Fellsmere Elementary School
GFWC Sebastian River Junior Woman’s Club
Good Health Crusaders
Liberty Magnet School
Monnett Eye Center
NJCT Power Team
Re/Max Crown Realty
Rotary Club of Sebastian
Sebastian Charter Junior High School
Sebastian Property Owners Association
Sebastian River High School – 2 teams
Sebastian River Medical Center – 2 teams
Sebastian River Middle School
Space Coast Credit Union
Storm Grove Middle School
Treasure Coast Community Health
Treasure Coast Elementary School
Treasure Digging Divers
Tropical Smoothie Café