A group of cancer survivors take the first lap at Relay for Life of Largo April 20 in Largo Central Park April 20.
LARGO – Upbeat music from the Largo High School’s marching Band of Gold led cancer survivors through the first lap of the Relay for Life in Largo Central Park April 20.
The circle through the park was one of many in the 18-hour event that began at 2 p.m. and didn’t end until 8 a.m. the following day. Relay for Life is the main fundraising event of the year for the American Cancer Society.
The local branch of the organization is committed to raising $35,000 before August this year. Before the Relay started, the organization had $23,000 under its belt, said community representative Lauren Hagwood.
“Every year, we increase our goal. I think we’ll hit it,” Hagwood said. “I have faith.”
Funds raised in the Largo Relay for Life support American Cancer Society initiatives close to home, Hagwood said. One of the most requested patient services is Road to Recovery, which provides transportation to and from cancer treatments.
Other funded initiatives include the Hope Lodge in Tampa, one of two sites in Florida that provide housing and emotional support for cancer patients; cancer resource rooms, where patients can find donated wigs, breast prostheses, bras and turbans and cancer research.
“It’s nice to see what all this fundraising goes to, seeing that it does stay in the community. I think that makes everyone feel better too,” Hagwood said.
The luminaria ceremony, honoring cancer victims and survivors with lighted candles lining the track, was held later that night. The Relay also included a host of games, activities and entertainment throughout the night, from races and Simon Says to group dances and Zumba.
The spirit of this year’s Relay for Life was captured by a team that signed up only three days before the event, around a relatively new cancer patient that had never participated before, Hagwood said.
“Her first treatment is on Monday. Her father passed away a year ago from a cancer we don’t even have a name for,” Hagwood explained. “You could hear it in her voice. She really wanted to fight and make a difference.”
To volunteer as part of the Largo event planning committee for the American Cancer Society, call Hagwood at 812-7029 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.