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Plant City Courier

Relay for Life Plant City raises $225,000 for cancer research

Tribune correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: April 24, 2013 at 01:26 PM
PLANT CITY -

Every step Allie Carter took was part of a symbolic saunter for loved ones.

As she walked around the Plant City High School track last week, Carter joined about 1,000 participants in the American Cancer Society's 2013 Relay for Life Plant City. Each year, more than four million people in over 20 countries take part in the walk to raise much-needed funds and awareness to save lives from cancer.

For Carter, 17, a Strawberry Crest High School junior, the event was personal. Carter said at 60, her grandfather died of prostate cancer and recently, a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I'm walking to honor my grandfather and I'm also part of the Interact Club,” said Carter, who was walking with her Plant City High Interact/Rotary club teammates. “We do this every year to raise awareness about the importance of getting screened.”

The Relay for Life began at 6 p.m. Friday and ran through noon Saturday.

The relay event started from a stage set up in the stadium, where the event has been held for the past fifteen years. Before the festivities began, Cathy Vallianatos, cancer society community representative, said about 1,000 participants had already registered, 78 teams were formed and $170,000 had been raised. By the time the event ended, she said more than $225,000 had been raised for the American Cancer Society.

“Last year, we had rain; this year, we had good weather and everyone stayed. I think everyone had a good time and we had a lot of support,” Villianatos said. I think even though it's (Plant City) a community of 30,000 people, everyone had been affected by cancer either directly or indirectly.”

Vallianatos, in her 13th year with the cancer society, said organizers started this year awarding “level” signs to teams based on how much they raised – bronze, silver, gold, platinum and jade. Groups, such as Bryan Elementary School, who raised more than $10,000 received the Jade sign. The signs were then posted by each team's headquarters on the track infield.

After the stage ceremonies, cancer survivors and their caregivers took a “victory lap.”

Doris Janssen, 56, of Plant City, said she's in chemotherapy to fight breast cancer, which she said is “so far, so good.” After the victory lap, she said she felt “emotional” from the support, which was somewhat overwhelming.

“It's very inspiring,” she said. “It gives me hope for myself and all of us. It feels wonderful to see the support grow like this.”

In addition to the victory lap, a “Luminaria Ceremony” candle lighting was held at 9 p.m. to remember people lost to cancer and honor people who have fought or are fighting cancer. There was also the “Fight Back Ceremony,” designed to inspire relay participants to take tangible action against cancer.

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