Families, friends, church groups, political candidates, and members of government agencies and non-profit organizations strolled, walked or danced around the track at the St. Croix Educational Complex Saturday afternoon to kick off the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life.
Team members walked or jogged through the night until 10 a.m. Sunday – upbeat music playing all the while.
There were 41 teams of at least 15 members each, according to Lorraine Baa, executive director of the St. Croix chapter of the ACS. The fundraising goal was $100,000, raised by teams who collected at least $1,500 in addition to the $150 registration fee. Funds are used to help patients with treatment, medications and travel, when necessary.
“We help everyone who comes in the door. If we can’t, we find someone who can,” Baa said.
After the opening ceremony and parade, teams set up tents, food and games and took their turn on the track. Adults and children, including toddlers, walked or jogged laps throughout the night.
Before dark Saturday, more than 125 cancer survivors were served a sit-down dinner with tablecloths and china. They dined on chicken, ham, macaroni and cheese, rice and vegetables. The food was donated and cooked by several restaurants, including Divi Carina Bay, the Palms at Pelican Cove, Villa Morales, the Lorraine Chicken Shack and 2+2 Night Club. Clara’s Special Occasions donated the cake for dessert.
“We think its special. When our survivors make it to another birthday, we celebrate,” Baa said.
Throughout the relay, there was upbeat music playing with live performances during the night by Fyah Train and Digital Band.
The candle lighting ceremony at 9 p.m. was followed by a new event, the Fight Back ceremony. After lighting candles to honor those fighting cancer or who have lost the battle, representatives from the teams told the crowd what they planned to do during the year to fight cancer.
Several teams have participated in many of the last 13 Relays for Life such as Scotiabank, Banco Popular and “Deh Life Savahs,” members of six families who return each year since Vivian Furet was the first chairperson of the event.
This year, young mothers pushing baby strollers, and joined adults and children of of all ages from the Furet, Acosta, Bailey, Harley and Smith families to support the cause.
The “Sunshine” team has expanded from one group to three groups of friends and relatives and Jones said they intend to have five teams next year.
Although this is only their second year, the Kmart “Cancer Crushers” came out in force with 45 employees and family members to participate. One runner started off the relay with 60 laps and then there were three people on the track throughout the event, according to Gizell Barthlet, Kmart employee.
“We have three associates in Kmart that are survivors. They are our motivation,” Barthlet said.
The “Cancer Crusher” tent won an award for the best decorations and by Sunday, they contributed almost $9,000 to the ACS.
There were prizes for the teams completing the most laps. According to event chairperson, Dona Jones, the team comprising the St. Croix Cycling and Running Federations and the V.I. National Guard were in first place Sunday morning with more than 300 laps completed. “Team Legit” and “Dominican and Friends” took turns running in second and third place all morning. It will be up to the official timekeepers to determine the winner, she said.
“This is the first time so many teams have gone over 200 laps,” Jones said.
Several schools volunteered for the event. St. Croix Central High School’s ROTC color guard led the parade. The Arthur Richards Jr. High art honor society created a banner that will be used for future events and the CHS culinary class served at the cancer survivors’ dinner.
At the end of the event Sunday morning, Team Legit – staff of the V.I. Legislature and families – presented a check of $1,885 they raised during the relay.
The V.I. Water and Power Authority’s team showed a movie Saturday night and sold popcorn, with the proceeds donated to ACS.
Event sponsors included Cruzan Rum, Innovative Companies, V.I. Lottery and Subway.
According to Jones, Seaborne Airlines pitched in at the last minute and delivered, at no charge, almost 30 boxes of T-shirts that had been delayed by weather. All of the other carriers would have charged for the service, she said.
Relay For Life began in 1985 when Dr. Gordy Klatt, a colorectal surgeon in Tacoma, Wash., ran and walked around a track for 24 hours to raise money for the cancer society.
Now, more than 3.5 million people in 5,000 communities in the U.S. and more than 20 countries around the world participate in the relay to raise funds and awareness for the fight against cancer.