Trinity relayers walk for cancer awareness
Rain clouds hanging over the J.W. Mitchell High School athletic field failed to keep Trinity area residents and students from putting on their game faces and purple shirts, and preparing to walk the track for 18 hours.
The Relay for Life of Trinity is one of 11 relays in Pasco County and this is its 11th year. The goal for relayers this year is $170,000, but fundraising doesn't end until August. By the end of the event, 70 teams raised more than $70,000.
That doesn't count all the money earned by vendors, school clubs and families who worked booths on the track. Dozens of themed booths sold food and American Cancer Society trinkets, and hosted activities like a dunk tank and craft stations that patrons could pay a small fee to participate in.
More than 600 volunteers, many of them teachers and school administration, and more than 1,500 members of the community made the event possible and successful, said Robyn Liska, the unit executive director of Relay for Life for Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.
“I can't tell you what it means to have the support of the school system,” Liska said. “These are the people telling the kids that they need to participate and explaining why it's important.”
The relays are sponsored by the American Cancer Society and are an opportunity to not only honor cancer survivors and remember those who have died, but also to raise awareness about and money to fight cancer.
The 18-hour walk around the track, on which at least one member of each team must be walking at all times, represents the journey of a cancer patient from diagnosis to treatment and recovery.
Liska said volunteers of all ages are needed to make the event possible. Many pre-teens, like Brittany Kubesa, a 12-year-old Seven Springs Middle School student, helped set up the event, run booths and clean up afterward.
Administrators even offered their services through the dunk tank to raise money for the cause. Brittany spent all of her cash and even borrowed from her friends to try to dunk her principal, Christopher Dunning.
Not all of the relay attendees walked. Some showed up to spend money at the vendors to help raise money. Jason Lowe and his family found out about the event from a Starbucks flyer and came out in memory of his mother, who died last year after a battle with cancer.
Musical performances, belly dance troupes and other forms of entertainment were scheduled throughout the night and into sunrise. Longleaf Elementary School's chorus group “Freedom Review” was one of many school choirs and bands to perform on the main stage for the relayers.
A luminaria was held after sunset. Paper bags decorated with both the names of cancer survivors and those who lost their battle were lit with candles and placed on several layers of the stadium seating to spell out “hope.”
“The luminaria is usually a very intimate event,” Liska said.
In the morning, at the end of a long night of walking, the relayers went home with achy feet, sweaty shirts and joy in their hearts for having made an impact on lives affected by cancer.