One night, 600 people and a cure for cancer – that’s the goal of Relay for Life, a community event which promotes cancer awareness.
The event takes place at the USF Soccer Stadium and raises money for the American Cancer Society, a non-profit organization with the goal of eliminating cancer through research, education, support and service.
Last year’s event raised $38,000, but according to Relay for Life President Jeremy Bills, this year’s goal is $40,000. Bills said $28,000 had been raised as of Wednesday,.
The ACS puts the earnings into organizations such as a program for women called Look Good, Feel Better and the Hope Lodge, a free housing area next to H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center. The Hope Lodge was built strictly from money gained at Relay for Life.
Throughout the night, teams are supposed to have one or two members on the track at all times, walking or running. Teams will also set up fund-raising booths to raise money.
Those who want to support the Relay don’t have to be part of a team to show up.
“The general public is welcome to come and support us,” said Sarah Krekow, a community representative for Relay for Life.
Bills said the Volunteer USF team will be accepting walk-on members.
“I am going to be part of Volunteer USF, and anyone who doesn’t have their own team can come and join,” Bills said.
The evening will begin with an honorary survivor lap at 6, for people who have cancer or have had cancer in the past. The survivors are then treated to a complimentary dinner sponsored by Carrabba’s Italian Grill.
Bills explained the Relay for Life will open while it is still light outside on behalf of those who have been lucky enough to be cancer free, and when nighttime arrives, “It represents a dark period of people who battle everyday.” The following morning, the light will signify all the people who have been fortunate enough to make it through such a rough time in their life.
This year the theme is “Relay Around the World,” and teams are expected to represent different countries. Some teams will even bring foods from their chosen countries.
In addition to lap competitions all through the night, such as a pajama lap and a disco lap, there will be activities such as volleyball, chubby bunny, wheel barrel races and a “he/she so hot” contest.
These competitions are vital and “keep energy up, because at two or three in the morning, people tend to get really tired,” Krekow said.
To celebrate the lives of loved ones lost to cancer or those who have cancer, Relay for Life will hold a luminaria celebration at 9 p.m.