Relay for Lifers raise $91K and run circles around cancer

The Citrus Bowl at Vero Beach High School glowed with hope the evening of April 6 during the 22nd annual Relay for Life Indian River, with proceeds supporting American Cancer Society research and patient care programs.

This was one of the biggest relays held in the county, according to Jenny Davis, ACS community development manager, the result of merging the Beaches, North County and Indian River relays.

Roughly 60 teams and 500 people laced up for the community-based effort to raise more than $91,000, celebrate cancer survivors and honor those lost.

“Tonight we relay for everyone touched by cancer, and we are going to continue that fight,” said emcee Chelsea Rose, 93.7 GYL. “The American Cancer Society Relay for Life represents the hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten and those who face cancer will be supported, and one day cancer will be eliminated.”

Rose shared that statistically, one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime. And, while two out of three are now surviving, she added, “It’s amazing, but not enough. We have to finish the fight.”

Bagpiper Michael Hyde blessed the track before the opening ceremony and later, during the Luminaria Ceremony, shared his personal experience as a survivor. Each light along the track offered a beacon of hope and represented a life: survivors, those battling the disease and lives lost to cancer.

Nicole Grice-Noll, event leader, addressed survivors, family members and caregivers, saying “we are all here for the same reason, to finish the fight against cancer. By walking this track, you are joining forces with millions of people worldwide who want to save lives.”

Survivors, cheered on by family members and caregivers, kicked off the celebration of life and hope with a victory lap at the start of the relay. Then, to make things more exciting, team members played a variety of games as they took turns circling the track. Games included tossing beach balls, Red Light/Green Light, a FitBit Challenge and even a poker lap with individuals earning playing cards toward winning hands. Various other games kept everyone amused off the track as well.

Theresa Woodson, ACS senior marketing manager, said Vero Beach High School students really stepped up this year, giving manicures on the sidelines, donating proceeds from the business students’ Coffee Bean enterprise from the week prior to the relay, and having ROTC students organize the HOPE message spelled out in lights in the stadium.

As the clock struck midnight, relay participants packed up and headed home with a renewed resolve to aid in the fight against cancer.

Photos by: Stephanie LaBaff
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