“Cancer never sleeps,” said Francis Rosario, a survivor and fifth-year Relay for Life participant. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was 15 years old and survived six months of chemotherapy and radiation, as well as another six months to build up his immune system. Rosario and other cancer survivors will be walking the first lap at the Relay for Life, hosted at USF Soccer Stadium on April 8.
Cancer survivors, caregivers and supporters will participate in an 18-hour walkathon.
“It is a celebration that symbolizes someone’s journey going through cancer,” said Jason Brzosowicz, a community representative from American Cancer Society.
This is the second relay hosted at USF. It begins at 6 p.m. on Friday and ends at noon on Saturday.
“The first lap will be only for survivors and everyone else will gather around and support them,” said Brzosowicz.
The caregivers will join the survivors on the second lap, and for the third lap everyone will participate. Teams consisting of 10-15 people will camp out at the soccer field, and someone from each team must be walking at all times. Teams will pick a movie theme and all team members must dress as characters, according to Brzosowicz. The teams fundraise from the time they sign up until the day of the relay. “There will be raffles, bake sales and other fundraising activities, so students are encouraged to come out and contribute,” said Brzosowicz. “The goal is to raise $35,000, and the money will support cancer programs that ACS provides.”
At 9 p.m. there will be a luminary ceremony. The word “Hope” will be spelled out in the stands and people can honor their loved ones who suffered or are suffering from cancer.
“It is the most emotional part and the reason that most people come back,” said Brzosowicz.
The event expects 42 teams to participate, for a total of 500 people. It is a total university event, and the public is welcome to come out. There will be a DJ present and other activities throughout the evening.
The Relay for Life began in Tacoma, Washington when Gordon Klatt spent 24 hours jogging around the track at the University of Puget Sound, according to information from the American Cancer Society. He raised $27,000 by allowing friends to pay $25 each to join him for 30 minutes. This took place in May 1985, and since then the Relay for Life has developed into the largest fundraiser in the United States, according to Brzosowicz.
This year the relay celebrates its 20th anniversary. Thus far it has raised more than $3 billion. The relay takes place in every state in the U.S., and by the end of the year 26 other countries will participate as well, said Brzosowicz.
Several USF organizations are already signed up for the relay. School of music has a team consisting of 16 people, according to team captain Maggie Brooks.
“We have a couple of professors who battled cancer and one of them is actually going through chemotherapy right now,” Brooks said. “It is a school of music effort to show support for him.”
The Vietnamese Student Association, VSA, will also be showing their support at the relay. So far they have nearly 20 people, but they are still looking for volunteers. Nancy Chau, team captain, said that VSA wants to raise awareness about cancer.
Because of great support and success, the Relay for Life was declared the American Cancer Society’s signature activity in 1996. The American Cancer Society states, “The relay represents the hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten, that those who face cancer will be supported and that one day cancer will be eliminated.”
In Hillsborough County alone, nine relays take place between February and April. According to Rosario, the Relay for Life is still growing. “We are figuring out where our arms start and where theirs end,” he said.