NEW TAMPA Bill Holster has been touched by cancer in an unimaginable way. In the past 20 years, he has lost his wife, his mother and brother to the disease.
Holster is fighting back the only way he knows how. He has devoted his life to help the American Cancer Society raise money through its annual Relay for Life program to battle the disease.
“This is all about the community,” said Holster, the team development chairman for Relay for Life of New Tampa.
The goal for Relay for Life planners is to raise thousands of dollars for cancer research, patient care and related programs and services.
This year, the New Tampa volunteers plan to surpass last year’s $115,000 fundraising mark by at least $10,000.
In Temple Terrace, where residents support two annual Relay for Life programs, residents are geared up to surpass the fundraising total from last year and have fun doing it.
King High on North 56th Street, where many Temple Terrace teenagers attend high school, hosted a Relay event in March.
It has become tradition for some attendees to dress up in goofy costumes for the larger Temple Terrace Relay for Life event. This year’s rally begins at 6 p.m. Friday and runs through noon Saturday, April 27, at the Greco Middle School track behind the school at 6925 E. Fowler Ave.
The festivities will shift north to Freedom High School’s football stadium at 17410 Commerce Park Blvd. in Tampa Palms for the New Tampa Relay event on May 17 and 18. It also has a 6 p.m. start.
Relay for Life planners are staging 18 hours of overnight activities to draw a large crowd of walkers, volunteers and spectators to both outdoor venues.
This is the Relay for Life fundraising season in the Tampa metropolitan area. It is the time of the year when cancer survivors, caregivers, family members, friends and strangers unite to organize relay teams to attack cancer one step at time.
Relay team members take turns running or walking around a track. Each team is asked to have at least one participant on the course at all times.
Each event features a bonanza of parades, speeches, games and fundraising opportunities to keep the crowd enthusiasm pumping throughout the night. It will include a celebration and luminaria ceremony to honor, remember and support relatives and friends who have battled the disease.
The teams will vary in size. The Temple Terrace volunteers are limiting teams to 15 members. In Tampa Palms, a team can be as few as one person or as large as 50 or more.
In Temple Terrace, more than 30 teams and about 320 participants had registered by Wednesday, said City Councilman Eddie Vance, who has served as a Relay for Life volunteer for 16 years.
The goal is for each person to raise a minimum of $100 or a team total of $1,500, said Vance, who is a Temple Terrace Relay for Life committee partner this year.
The theme for the Temple Terrace event is “A Cure around the World.” Each team will hold an onsite fundraising drive during the rally related to the country they represent, Vance said.
A Relay event is designed to celebrate life and deliver a powerful message.
“The idea is for the teams to go through the endurance and challenge” of sleep deprivation, weariness and overall discomfort, Vance said. “To do this is just a small representation of what someone with cancer has to go through.”
The New Tampa volunteers have registered 48 teams and more than 500 participants with more to come, Holster said.
Proceeds from Relay for Life events will benefit many programs, including those focused on providing outpatient lodging, taking care of transportation needs, supporting survivors, and supplying hair and makeup products to cheer up people living with the illness, providing education and scholarships, and camps for children and their relatives.
Holster also sees the annual fundraiser as a lifeline for caregivers. He understands the feelings of helplessness many encounter. Holster experienced it himself as cancer claimed his mother, Lorraine, one year ago; his wife, Cheri, three years ago; and his brother, Bob, 20 years ago.
“If I can help someone out, I will,” Holster said. “I can’t solve it for them, but I can make it better.”
To participate in the Relay events, go online to visit the Temple Terrace Relay for Life website at http://bit.ly/11CEB07 or the Relay for Life of New Tampa website, http://bit.ly/11l050o.