This year’s Relay for Life is Bradenton’s largest yet, with 40 teams participating to raise money for the American Cancer Society, which invests more than $120 million in cancer research every year. Of that $120 million, more than $15 million goes to researchers in Florida, the nation’s leader in reaching newly-diagnosed patients.
“Relay is a unique opportunity for our community to come together to celebrate people who have battled cancer, remember those we’ve lost, and fight back against the disease,” said Gwen Washington, event chair.
Teams from local businesses, faith-based groups, schools and hospitals are among the participants. A significant number of those participants are cancer survivors or family members and friends who are walking to honor loved ones who lost their battles with the disease.
“Many of the participants are cancer survivors, which serves as a reminder that the Bradenton community is not immune to this disease and that by participating in Relay, we are joining with the American Cancer Society’s efforts to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays,” Washington added.
Opening ceremonies take place at 1 p.m. Saturday with the traditional survivor and caregiver victory laps.
The Luminaria Ceremony, which honors the community’s cancer survivors and honors those who lost their battle with the disease, takes place at 9 p.m. Each luminaria, bearing the name of an individual who lost his or her life to cancer, will light the darkened path for the participants as they circle the track throughout the night. Luminaria can be purchased for donation by calling (941) 328.3775 or by visiting the Relay for Life website.
The goal for each team is to keep at least one member walking on the track or designated pathway for the entirety of the event, which runs around the clock until 7 a.m. Sunday.
Teams do most of their fundraising prior to the event, but continue accepting donations throughout the course of the walk. Those interested in donating to the cause can access the full list of teams online, where donations can be made with the click of a button.
As of Wednesday evening, Relay of Bradenton had collected $24,480 of this year’s $75,000 goal. At the close of last year’s event, participating teams collected a grand total of $63,000.
Practice Administrator, Kobee Masiello, said that several downtown merchants got involved this year to help publicize and support the cause by lining the lamps on Main Street with purple ribbons and offering special promotions.
During tonigh’s Get Down Downtown block party, Lucky Dogs will sell purple hotdogs and donate the proceeds to Relay for Life of Bradenton. Masiello said that Fav’s Italian Cucina will also offer special promotions to raise funds for cancer research.
In addition to this year’s heightened involvement form downtown businesses, Masiello also said the committee asked the mayor to proclaim April 19 as “Purple Day” and encourages Bradenton residents to wear purple in support of the cause.
One Manatee Avenue business, Manatee Scooters, went so far as to paint its entire retail location purple for relay day.
“We’re just trying to get the community more aware of what we’re doing,” Masiello said. “This is my first year with the committee and I’ve really been amazed by how supportive the community is of this cause.”
This year a stylist from Teddi’s Place will be present at the Relay for Life to cut hair to donate to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hair pieces for financially disadvantaged children who have lost their hair from chemotherapy, other treatments or medical conditions. Donated hair must be at least 10” long, clean, dry and bundled in a ponytail or a braid. Hair that has been colored or permed will be accepted, however, Locks of Love cannot use bleached hair.
According to the American Cancer Society, half of all men and one-third of all women in the United States will develop cancer during their lifetimes. The numbers may seem grim, but events like the Relay for Life are what enable the American Cancer Society to contribute approximately $3.4 billion toward discovering the cure.
To date, the American Cancer Society reports that more than 11 million men, women and children in the United States who have been diagnosed with cancer or avoided it will celebrate another birthday this year because of the efforts of volunteers across the nation participating in events such as this one.
Bradenton’s April 21-22 Relay for Life is a free event and will be open to the public for its entire duration. For more information or to make a donation, visit the official Relay for Life of Bradenton website or the American Cancer Society.