Cancer survivor Ashley Rutenberg, wearing a purple T-shirt, walks with her team “Ashload of Hope,” at a previous Relay for Life event in Palm Harbor.
PALM HARBOR – Palm Harbor native and cancer survivor Ashley Rutenberg is fighting back against the disease that almost took her own life as a child.
Stricken with cancer at 15 months old and surviving two subsequent relapses, Rutenberg now looks at her journey through cancer with new eyes and a desire to help others. Rutenberg will lead her first team at the Relay for Life of Palm Harbor event on April 12-13, at the Palm Harbor University High School track.
Now 26 years old and cancer-free, Rutenberg has formed team “Ashload of Hope” and has made it her mission to lend support to young cancer patients who remind her of herself.
Rutenberg isn’t alone in her struggles and triumphs with cancer. More than a million people are diagnosed with the life-threatening disease each year.
Relay For Life was created by the American Cancer Society to raise awareness and funds for research to save lives from the disease. Team “Ashload of Hope” is working towards (and has already almost reached) a goal of $2,500.
To help raise money, Rutenberg organized and hosted a fundraiser which consisted of dinner and a comedy show at Palm Harbor’s Temple Ahavat Shalom Reform. The event earned $2,000, some of which went to help children in the Tampa Bay community who are battling cancer. A portion of those proceeds also went to CureSearch, a program, which helps fund cancer research at hospitals, including All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, where Rutenberg was treated as a child.
“[I want to let] people - especially children - who are in the midst of their struggle with cancer know that there are survivors out there,” says Rutenberg. “The Relay for Life event allows us to support each other and fight together to overcome this unwanted obstacle in our lives.”
Relay for Life of Palm Harbor currently has 17 teams and 104 participants, and is expected to grow even more in the upcoming weeks.
Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s signature volunteer-driven fundraising event. Relay for Life began in 1985 when colorectal surgeon Dr. Gordon Klatt decided to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of his patients by walking around a track over a 24 hour period. Today, Relay For Life events are held in more than 5,000 communities spanning 21 countries and have raised an estimated $3 billion.