Shark Stadium was recently filled with hope.
Each year, more than 1 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer. On a recent Friday night, residents of Gulf and Franklin counties came together for the annual Relay for Life held at Shark Stadium in Port St. Joe to bring the number down.
The 12-hour event raised nearly $40,000 for the American Cancer Society and served to build awareness about the disease. Money raised will help treat those with cancer and fund research against the illness.
More than 60 survivors attended the event and 16 teams and 144 participants sold goodies and snacks to raise additional donations for the ACS.
“The first year with a combined Relay went wonderfully,” said event co-chair Cheryl Fritsch-Middleton. “We had a great committee and great teams from both counties.”
Relay For Life is held overnight as individuals and teams camp out at an athletic track, park or other gathering area, with the goal of keeping at least one team member on the track or pathway at all times throughout the evening.
The events are held over long stretches to honor and mirror a cancer patient’s journey through treatment.
In traditional fashion the event begins with the Survivor Lap, during which cancer survivors, alongside their caregivers, take the first lap around the track while they are honored by attendees.
At dark the Luminaria ceremony was held to honor those who have lost the fight to cancer as well as those who continue to fight. Candles are placed in white paper bags and the names of those affected by the illness are written upon them by loved ones.
The theme of this year’s event was “Birthdays” playing into the idea that with additional research on the disease, those stricken with the disease may be able to celebrate more birthdays.
“Relay for Life is such a great experience and anyone who has been affected by cancer should consider getting involved,” said Fritsch-Middleton. “When the survivors come up and give you a huge and say thank you, it’s all worth it.
“I’m ready to start planning for next year.”
Those who wish to make donations can still do so online at www.relayforlife.org.