PLANT CITY Joy Neely said the fight against cancer is a team effort - in more ways than one.
Neely, who has had her own battle with the disease, was honorary survivor for this year’s Relay for Life. She said during the opening ceremony of the 18-hour fundraiser that it’s going to take a team effort to defeat the disease.
“When we band together we are strong,” she said. “Together we can make a difference.”
Hundreds of walkers on 55 teams took turns walking the Plant City High for the April 11-12 relay that raised $180,000, with more donations rolling in. Organizers said they were on track to reach the fundraiser’s $248,000 goal.
Participants set up booths and participated in events and games during the relay. They also spent hours walking the track for pledges and donations, and to show their support for those affected by cancer.
“They have to have someone on their team walk the track for the full 18 hours,” event chairwoman Linda Herman said.
One of the American Cancer Society’s largest fundraisers, teams plan and raise money months in advance. Fundraising continues after the relay is over.
“We had a lot of teams who brought in a couple thousand dollars each,” team retention Chairwoman Joanie Petty said.
She said that a number of children participated in the fundraiser this year for a disease that touches many lives regardless of age.
“There were kids represented from almost all the area elementary schools,” she said, adding that all local high schools and middle schools were represented as well.
Fundraising will continue through the end of the summer and Herman thinks the event will reach its $248,000 goal. Plant City typically places in the top three or four in the state for the amount of money raised by a Relay for Life.
“We worked really, really hard on this event,” she said. “We do this because we’ve all been touched by this terrible disease.”
Petty said that many who participated were inspired to do more.
“I had some of the teams who came out to relay and were really motivated by the event,” she said.
Herman, thanking all those who came out to support the event, said organizers could not have accomplished so much without the dedication of the teams and individuals.
“Without you cancer wins but with you we save lives,” she said.
For information about donating to the Relay for Life, go to www.relayforlife.org and search for Plant City.
Major sponsors of the local Relay for Life included:
Bronze level, more than $2,500, Health Center of Plant City, Trapnell Elementary School and Platinum Bank; Silver, more than $3,500, Strawberry Crest High School IB 2017, Bailey Elementary School, Strawberry Crest High School 2016, Walden Lake Elementary, Cork Elementary and Shiloh Charter; Gold, more than $5,000, Pinecrest Elementary School and Durant High School; Platinum, more than $7,500, Springhead Elementary School, Marshall Middle School and Plant City High School; and Jade, more than $10,000, Bryan Elementary, Tomlin Middle School and Knights Elementary.
Individuals who raised more than $1,000 included Dana Carpenter, Jourdain Cole, Kim Davis, Nataosha Doerr, Linda Herman, Joanie Petty, Jana Watkins, Cathy Vallianatos and Deborah Vallianatos.