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    Relays pump funds in fight versus cancer

    Several of the events, which include cancer survivors, are planned countywide to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

    By JULIANNE WU

    © St. Petersburg Times, published April 17, 2001


    PINELLAS PARK -- Walkers, runners and cancer survivors are preparing for the annual Relay for Life fundraising events for the American Cancer Society.

    This is the fifth year the relays will be in Pinellas County, said Angela McAuley, development director for the Cancer Society's unit in Pinellas Park.

    The Relay events, which start April 27 and 28, unofficially begin with setting up a tent city on the football field or other site on the first afternoon. Teams who have gotten pledges ahead of time decorate their campsites, play games and participate in karaoke fests. Some teams also sell food to fellow participants to raise part of their money.

    "Traditionally, cancer survivors walk the first lap by themselves," McAuley said. "This lap symbolizes the courage that survivors, their caregivers and families display and sustain their lives."

    Team members then take turns circling the field until about noon the next day.

    Participants and spectators can also purchase luminaria, bags containing candles, in memory of a cancer survivor or someone who has died from the disease. About 8:45 p.m., the football stadium or other site is darkened and the candles are lighted during a ceremony. They remain lighted throughout the two-day event to symbolize that "cancer never sleeps . . . nor does the search for a cure," McAuley said.

    This year's overall goal for the county is $295,000, McAuley said.

    The Relays started when Dr. Gordon Platt waged a one-man fight against cancer in 1985. For 24 hours, he walked, jogged and ran around a high school track in Tacoma, Wash. Spectators came out to watch and some even spent the night. In all, Platt raised $27,000.

    More than $169-million was raised between 1990 and 2000 from Relay events, which are now in eight countries.

    - Julianne Wu can be reached at 445-4221 or by e-mail at wu@sptimes.com.

    If you go

    Pinellas County Relay for Life sites and the individual goals are as follows.

    April 27-28 -- Seminole: Osceola High School, 9751 98th St. N, $50,000 goal; Dunedin: Dunedin High School, 1651 Pinehurst Road, $28,000 goal; and Pinellas Park: England Brothers Park band shell, $38,000 goal.

    May 4-5 -- Largo: Largo High School, 410 Missouri Ave., $15,000 goal; St. Petersburg: Northeast High School, 5500 16th St. N, $40,000 goal.

    May 11-12 -- Tarpon Springs: Tarpon Springs Sports Complex, 150 Jasmine Ave., $28,000 goal.

    May 18-19 -- Clearwater: the Long Center, 1501 N Belcher Ave., $96,000 goal.

    Interested?

    For information or to get involved in one of the area Relay events, call the Cancer Society, 812-7363, or the hotline, 546-9822, ext. 7368. The Pinellas unit of the American Cancer Society is at 4801 86th Ave. N, Pinellas Park.

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