Ninety-thousand, two hundred and fifty-nine dollars. For a free place to stay when cancer treatment takes patients out of town. For free transportation to and from treatment for cancer patients. For college scholarships for students who have a history of cancer. Ninety-thousand, two hundred and fifty-nine dollars in donations, just from New Tampa alone.
The opening ceremony for the New Tampa Relay for Life, “Jour- ney to the Cure: Don’t Stop Believing,” started Saturday, May 18, at around 6 p.m. at Mitchell D. Muley Stadium with a performance of the national anthem performed by USF junior Brittany Brown and speeches delivered by cancer survivors.
With 620 participants and 49 teams, New Tampa raised $90,259. Pride Elementary was recognized as one of New Tampa’s platinum teams and highest contributor collecting $9,325. The top participant was Donna Moffatt, from the Freedom from Cancer team, who raised $ 2,610. Senior Erica Brackman was Wharton’s top participant with $1,550.
“For Relay for Life, I emailed all of my relatives and close friends multiple times asking them to donate. I even asked my boss,” Brackman said. Amy French, AP world history teacher and BETA club co-sponsor was also a notable participant with a donation of $800.
“I mostly sent emails to friends and family members and I think the American Cancer Society is so easy to raise money for because so many people are affected by cancer and they [the American Cancer Society] do such great work that people are willing to donate to it,” French said.
The track was surrounded with tents hosting raffle prizes, games, photo booths and an endless array of food.
Freedom High School’s ROTC program raffled off a new XBOX360 with Kinect. Local businesses such as Roux’s, Marco’s Pizza, the Mary Kay sisterhood and local churches also came out to support the cause with booths carrying food and prizes. Survivors and caregivers were treated to a free dinner catered by Texas Roadhouse following the opening.
Pride, Mort and Clark elementary schools, Bartels and Benito middle schools and Freedom and Wharton High Schools all showed their sup- port by raising money for the Relay.
White paper bags filled with sand and a small white candle to light inside were purchased for $5. Bags were decorated in memory of a loved one lost to cancer, or in honor of a cancer survivor. To participants, the Luminaria bag is symbolic. The pa- per sack represents the thick skin one needs when hearing a cancer diagnosis and the sand is a comforting and firm foundation when one feels weak and falters. The candle is as solid as a rock, what caregivers, family, friends, doc- tors and nurses are to those battling cancer. The flame is the light of hope. Hope that a cure will be found before more luminarias are lit. The burning is the desire to eradicate this disease now.
Stadium lights were turned off as Luminaria bags were placed in the bleachers, spelling out the word “HOPE,” then at the end of the Luminaria ceremony, “CURE.”
As Brown sang “Amazing Grace,” bags were lit as Relay for Life participants remembered and honored their lost mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and other loved ones. The tender moment was enhanced by the release of balloons each with a forlorn note attached to the tail.
“I think it provided closure for some people and for others,” Junior Alex Sullivan said, “It may have given them a sense of connection with their loved ones.”