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ALACHUA ‒ After a two-year hiatus due to the Covid Pandemic, the Relay For Life Cancer event has returned to Alachua. This year the venue was moved to the new Legacy Park Amphitheater but the dedication of the volunteers and supporters remained unchanged. Despite the hiatus, the event and support of the community came back even larger than before.

Relay for Life is a team fund raising event featuring team members walking around a track. Each event is four to 24 hours in length and each team has a member on the track at all times to signify that cancer never sleeps.

In Alachua, 21 teams and nine sponsors fielded teams and made additional donations or had items for sale including the City of Alachua, Waste Pro, Campus USA, UF Health, Cisco, Santa Fe Kiwanis Club and Santa Fe High School. The school's FFA brought a pig, that based on donations, was to be kissed by a city official.

The concept behind the event is that no one has to fight cancer alone and that the community supports and celebrates the accomplishment and struggles of cancer survivors and caregivers. Many of the runners are survivors or people memorializing loved ones who died of cancer. Every year, Relay events are organized, staffed and coordinated by volunteers in thousands of communities and 27 countries to remember those who have succumbed to the disease, honor the survivors of all cancers, and raise money to help the American Cancer Society make a global impact on disease.

One in three Americans will be diagnosed with cancer. Even if the cancer is defeated or put into remission, the specter of the disease remains, as does the fear it could return. In 2021, there were 1.9 million new cancer cases diagnosed and 608,570 cancer deaths in the United States. That equates to over 1,600 deaths a day.

Although each community puts individual touches to their Relay For Life Event, there is a general format they follow. Each team and sponsors set up a fund-raising tent where people can make donations and sponsor a runner. Some teams also offer items for sale like baked goods, food, stuffed animals or even offer a service people.

After the opening ceremony, the relays begin in a specific order with the first one featuring the cancer survivors walking, The second one features their spouses and caregivers. This year, the third walking team was comprised of police, first responders and military members, several of whom were survivors as well. After that, the teams take to the course as well as the general public.

This year prior to the walk, there was a tribute to Robin True, who had been heavily involved in the previous Relay For Life events. True was a victim of Ovarian Cancer and had fought it for six years until she passed in 2021. Before the first walk, her extended family, friends and supporters gathered before the stage to accept an award from Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper as True’s son played the harmonica in tribute to his mother's life.

The event is always held when the sun sets and darkness falls, representing the darkness of the disease. Bringing honor and remembrance as well as hope, luminaries glow in dedication to cancer victims and survivors. Each luminary carries the name of a survivor or someone who has died of cancer as well as information about that person.

Relay For Life is the American Cancer Society's signature fundraising event that represents the hope that those lost to cancer will never be forgotten, that those who face cancer will be supported, and that one day cancer will be eliminated. Alachua’s Relay for Life at Legacy Park was organized to remember those lost to cancer, celebrate cancer survivorship and to raise money for medical research and programs conducted by the American Cancer Society.

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