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42 relay teams raise record amount

Teams, including one man who walked 44 miles, orbited the Citrus High football field for 18 hours.

By JORGE SANCHEZ, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 28, 2002


photo
[Times photo: Stephen Coddington]
Mary Graf of Inverness, left, holds hands with her husband, Bill, at the Relay for Life.
INVERNESS -- The Relay For Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society held Friday and Saturday at the Citrus High football stadium raised $111,474.89, a record effort.

The relay, now in its sixth year, had 42 teams of walkers. At least one member from each team was walking around the track at the football field at all times during the 18-hour event. Relay organizers said they had worries about the effects the Sept. 11 terror attacks might have on the fundraising efforts, but those worries quickly vanished as the event got under way Friday at 6 p.m.

"I've been involved with this for six years, and it just keeps getting better," said relay co-chairwoman Donna Shortreed. "The community support and participation is just awesome. There's people of all ages out here, from little ones to seniors."

The 42 teams set up tents and booths on the perimeter of the Citrus High football field. The tents provided respite for weary walkers. Some teams also had fundraising activities during the event.

Many of the onsite fundraisers sold food and drinks. Entrees including pork dinners, Spanish food, chili dogs and pizza were available.

Members of the Alpha Alpha Nu sorority were selling ice drinks similar to slushees, which sold very well. All the proceeds benefited the American Cancer Society.

"I've been to all the relays, and it's just a great chance for us to perform community service," said Alpha Alpha Nu team captain Melissa Odom.

Participating once again after taking last year off was Jim Nichols, who walked the entire 18 hours by himself. He stopped only for brief bathroom breaks.

"I did 44 miles this time," Nichols said after completing his last lap.

Nichols said his only training for the event was "beer and chicken wings."

"I weigh a little more now than I did last time, but I was able to pull it off again," he said.

The Relay For Life organizers presented Nichols with a team trophy and an individual trophy for his efforts.

"I'm just here doing my part. My hat goes off to the cancer patients and their caregivers," he said.

Although some money goes to the national organization, most of it benefits hospitals in Citrus County and elsewhere in Florida, relay organizers said.

The money helps pay for programs for cancer patients. Among these are transportation to treatment centers and the "Feel Good, Look Great" program for women undergoing chemotherapy.

Feel Good, Look Great helps women who lose their hair and whose complexion worsens because of cancer treatments. They get wigs and turbans and receive a $400 makeup kit and advice from makeup experts.

Another program is Man to Man, a support group for prostate cancer survivors. Some of the money also goes to the Citrus County cancer society chapter's office in Inverness.

The money also pays for pamphlets and education, said Dr. Joe Bennett, a Relay for Life committee member.

He said every person diagnosed with cancer in Citrus County gets an extensive information packet that costs $13.

Bennett said only about 10 percent of the fundraising money is used as seed money for the national cancer society for administrative and fundraising costs. About 25 percent goes toward research for a cure, and the rest stays in Florida and helps fund cancer programs at Shands at the University of Florida teaching hospital in Gainesville, the University of Miami and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.

A second Relay For Life will take place Friday and Saturday at Crystal River High School, beginning at 6 p.m. Friday.

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