Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Relay for Life Walk Starts Friday Funds Go to Cancer Research

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Relay for Life Walk Starts Friday Funds Go to Cancer Research

Article excerpt

Byline: Caren Burmeister, Shorelines staff writer

Teams of cancer survivors, their relatives and supporters will take turns next weekend walking 18 hours non-stop through the night to symbolize the personal fight against cancer.

The American Cancer Society sponsors the Relay for Life, which starts at 6 p.m. Friday at Ponte Vedra-Palm Valley Elementary School, to raise money for research and patient care and to honor survivors and people who died from cancer.

"Cancer never sleeps," said Mary Beth Pennington, executive director of the Jacksonville and Ponte Vedra Beach units of the American Cancer Society.

Relay teams of 10 to 15 people each will walk around the school's bus loop from 6 p.m. Friday to noon May 4. The loop and field area will be bordered by lit candles in luminaria bags as memorials.

Each team member is encouraged to raise at least $100 in contributions from sponsors.

Participants may camp on the site and enjoy live music by the Julius Airwave and other bands, dancing by Jacksonville City Stompers (cloggers) and activities such as hula-hoop contests, Frisbee, bingo, tile painting, scavenger hunts and amateur hour.

"It's sort of like a great big party," Pennington said. "They are really a lot of fun."

Janet Smith, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident who has been fighting breast cancer for five years, walked in the Relay for Life last year and had hoped to do it again this year.

"It's neat to be part of a community," Smith said. "Cancer can be kind of isolating."

But Smith, who underwent chemotherapy, surgery and radiation years ago, recently became sick again and likely faces more chemotherapy. Since the start, Smith, who is a nurse, has sought doctors who are on the cutting edge of using experimental drugs and therapies.

She said her last five years are a direct result of the money raised by programs like Relay for Life and the RITA Foundation, a non-profit corporation that raises money for local breast cancer research and treatment. …

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