Hundreds pack the Citrus Bowl to fight back against cancer

VERO BEACH — It was the perfect night for camping out and hundreds of people, both young and old, did just that at the 16th Annual Relay for Life of Indian River to benefit the American Cancer Society (ACS). 

Friday night into Saturday, cancer survivors and supporters packed the Vero Beach High School Citrus Bowl to “Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back.”

During a brief welcoming ceremony, led by Chairperson Mary Ankeny, a representative from Wells Fargo presented a check for $10,000 to support ACS efforts.

“I just want to say to all the survivors; you’re what makes it all worthwhile,” said another sponsor, Dr. William McGarry.

As the event’s principal honorees, cancer survivors in purple t-shirts were cheered on by the crowd, leading the way through an archway of balloons on their inspirational Survivors’ Victory Lap at the start of the Relay.

Later, following an impressive Florida sunset, an emotional Luminaria Ceremony honored loved ones, serving as a reminder that “hope lights the way.”

Many of the teams participate in the event year after year, including the Butterfly Wings team, which was originally organized in 1995 by Cancer Center employees. They were last year’s top fundraising team and since its founding has raised more than $150,000.

“Most of the money is raised through garage sales and chance drawings,” said Deanna Himelick.

The fun continues all night, as teams try to raise additional money, and stay awake, playing games, selling food, and listening and participating in entertainment from dusk to dawn.

Throughout the evening, teams camped out and took turns walking around the track; each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times as a reminder that “cancer never sleeps.” {igallery 364}

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