Survivors and caregivers, families and friends, staged a “Walk Out On Cancer” during this year’s Relay for Life of Indian River at Riverside Park to benefit the American Cancer Society.
Despite that an estimated 1,958,300 new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2023, the evening was one of celebration and hope.
After bagpiper and cancer survivor Michael Hyde performed the traditional blessing of the track, Scott Mack of 93.7 GYL emceed the event’s commencement.
“We are here to eliminate cancer as we know it. Creating a world with less cancer and more survivors,” said Mack. “Hope is here tonight as we bring our community together and celebrate our survivors, and hope will come later this evening as we light candles and luminary bags to honor and remember.”
Mack said fundraising efforts enable the American Cancer Society to provide support, hope and information 24/7, 365 days a year, through research, rides to treatments, free lodging, cancer screening, and advocating for high quality, affordable healthcare.
Heather Reeb had been invited to speak about converting the pain of losing both her parents to cancer into power. She had begun running up and down her street as a way of coping with their loss and eventually increased to 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon races.
“When I realized what I was doing was very selfish, I decided I needed to do a marathon for something good,” said Reeb. She raised $8,000 running the Chicago Marathon in her father’s memory, and when her mother succumbed to cancer, set her sights on the New York Marathon.
She has continued to race and fundraise and was one of 20 people chosen by the American Cancer Society to run as a member of the ACS Determination Team in the TCS London Marathon this past April.
Jane Holman, sponsorship chair, recognized Presenting Sponsor Piper Aircraft, Walmart Supply Fort Pierce as the Gold Together for Childhood Cancer sponsor, and Bernard Egan Foundation as the Power of Purple sponsor.
“These three sponsors have become the foundation of this event. For years all three of them have supported without hesitancy,” added Holman.
This year, 43 teams, comprised of businesses, families and friends, have raised $70,400 toward its goal of $100,000, with fundraising continuing through the end of August.
Teams had tents around the relay course with games and food to entice would-be donors.
“It usually starts with a way to support a family member, someone who’s fought cancer, someone who survived cancer, and for some, it may be a way to remember someone they have lost,” said Nancy Madsen, team development lead. “We celebrate team fundraising because the fight against cancer is won with every dollar raised.”
Last year, she said, they recognized the collective efforts of Indian River County schools, which accumulated more than $100,000 over the past 10 years.
This year, the Village Green Friends for a Cure team was recognized for also raising more than $100,000 over 12 years. “They’ve been unwavering in their commitment, determined, passionate, empowering and inspiring,” said Madsen.
The crowd cheered as each survivor gave their name and the number of years of being cancer-free, before joining other survivors and caregivers in a show of solidarity and hope for the first lap of the evening.
For more information, visit cancer.org.
Photos by Stephanie LaBaff