ALACHUA ‒ This year’s Relay for Life brought crowds, fundraiser events and surprises to Legacy Field last Friday night, April 28. Relay participants, spectators and volunteers joined forces not for just a good cause, but also in remembrance of a loved one who lost their battle and for survivors who continue the fight.

During their lifetime, one in three Americans will be diagnosed with cancer. At the least, it means a life interruption to fight against a debilitating disease through treatment or surgery and the slow struggle to recover. Even if the cancer is defeated or put into remission, the specter of the disease remains, as does the fear it could return.

The American Cancer Society Relay for Life movement is the world’s largest peer-to-peer fundraising event dedicated to saving lives from cancer. For over 35 years, communities across the world have come together to honor and remember loved ones and take action for lifesaving change.

Funds raised through Relay for Life directly support breakthrough research, 24/7 support for cancer patients, access to lifesaving screenings, and much more. A Relay for Life event is a community of like-minded survivors, caregivers, volunteers, and participants who believe that the future can be free from cancer.

The City of Alachua began holding Relay for Life events in 2017 with the exception of a two-year hiatus due to the Covid Pandemic, returning in 2022. Since its return, the event has been held in Legacy Park Amphitheater field. This year, there were 28 teams that both fielded walking teams and make additional donations or have items for sale, ranging from baked goods, meals, drinks, handcrafts and stuffed animals.

The City of Alachua also sold tickets for gift baskets that raise additional dollars. Several booths offered games or raffles to raise funds. Some of the teams were also hosted by sponsoring businesses. This year’s sponsors included Waste Pro, Campus USA, UF Health, Sysco, Taylor's HVAC, Santa Fe High School, Santa Fe College, Target, Walmart, and others.

The Alachua Sherriff's Office also displayed their helicopter and SWAT armored vehicle. Two aerobics instructors also held a workout session for all the participants.

One of the favorite local events is sponsored by the Santa Fe High School FFA, who brings a pig to the event to be kissed by a city official who raises the most money for the cause. Everyone knows who the three officials are who are contending for the opportunity to kiss the pig. The surprise is who will be the big winner. This year’s competitors were Alachua Police Chief Jesse Sandusky, Alachua City Manager Mike DaRoza and High Springs Police Chief Antoine Sheppard. The winning candidate who raised the most money was Chief Sheppard who good naturedly kissed the pig as the crowd cheered him on.

The event is always held when the sun sets and darkness falls, representing the darkness of the disease. But, light shines on this darkness in the form of Luminaries, dedicated to the victims of the disease and to show that everyone stands together. The lights also represent shining a light on the darkness of cancer in hopes for a cure from the research this event helps fund.

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.

#     #    #

email rcarson@