SUN CITY CENTER – As a 21-year breast cancer survivor, Dana Dittmar takes the annual Relay for Life seriously. Rocked to the core when she first heard the word “cancer,” she called on every ounce of faith and strength she had to beat the odds.
So for the past 22 years Dittmar has participated in and promoted the relay, which raises funds for breast cancer research and a cure. Its her way of inspiring others when they hear the “C” word.
For many years, Sun City Center had its own relay, but participation gradually dwindled and the event was merged with the South Shore Relay for Life held at Lennard High School. The past two years Dittmar and her Aqua Viva Diva team participated at that location, raising money and walking countless miles. Last year South Shore Relay for Life teams collectively raised $58,640.65.
But Dittmar, a Kings Point resident, wants to get more Sun City Center residents involved. So this year she and Mallory McLean of the American Cancer Society are organizing a Mini Relay for Life event at the Sun City Center Chamber of Commerce and Payant Financial Plaza.
“The 24-hour events were too much for Sun City Center residents,” Dittmar said. “They don't want to spend all that time walking around a track and camping out with teenagers. So we're bringing the relay back to Sun City Center, where more people can participate.”
Dittmar and McLean are encouraging everyone to come out May 3 and support the teams as they walk mini laps around the two parking lots from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The opening ceremony will kick off the event at 10 with the national anthem and introduction of more than 25 local survivors who will walk the first lap. Local residents, survivors and caregivers make up the three to five teams that will intermittently walk laps to raise money and build awareness. There will be decorated golf cart laps for teams that prefer to ride for the cause.
Each year the American Cancer Society raises funds to help fight breast cancer with Relay for Life throughout 20 countries. Research and development in Florida have seen the cancer survivor rate in the state increase from 57 percent to 77 over the past five years.
Ribbons of Hope, food and baked goods will be sold. Luminary bags may also be purchased, decorated and set out around the course to honor survivors and remember loved ones lost to the disease.
Dittmar said she was honored to be asked to organize the effort.
“I would love to see 100 people turn up to support this cause,” she said. “If we can get the word out, we will have mini relays in Sun City Center for years to come.”
The theme for this year's walk/ride is “songs.” Dittmar's Aqua Viva Divas team has chosen
“Tip Toe through the Tulips (and Weed out Cancer)” and raised $1,500 so far.
For more information or to join the cause, contact Dittmar at the chamber at (813) 634-5111.
Dosi Loverro is a freelance writer who can be reached at [email protected]