Event honors cancer survivors, caregivers and more at H.O.B.

Twenty-four teams are taking the field at Horace O’Bryant Middle School on Friday and Saturday, April 17-18 to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Relay For Life in the Florida Keys. The public, all survivors and caregivers are invited for the survivor and caregiver reception beginning right before opening ceremonies at 5 p.m. with the Bubba System playing live music. The event continues through the night and ends the next day at noon.

“We were the second site in Florida to start doing Relay,” said event coordinator and Relay historian Carrie Helliesen. She has been with the Relay for 20 years, and is a cancer survivor. “We have done so much through the years. I think one of the most important things we have done is participate in the Cancer Prevention Study in 2012.”

Two hundred Lower Keys residents, who have never been diagnosed with cancer, signed up for the study, which boasts 300,000 participants across the U.S. They agreed to answer questionnaires and have blood and measurements taken every couple of years over the span of 20 years.

The event will be filled with 20 years of memories. “Since this is our twentieth year, not only will it be a true reunion, but a living, symbolic and actual representations of the tremendous progress and impact American Cancer Society had made during the past 20 years,” Helliesen said. “There will also be a reunion tent for all to see the memorabilia, and a place to gather with friends from the past. Special remembrance tributes will be during the beautiful luminaria lighting ceremony, shortly after sunset.”

John Mumford will also be back for his traditional lightshow to music that takes place after the luminaria lighting. Different acts take the stage throughout the 19-hour evet.

According to the event’s fund-raising website, 153 people have brought in almost $79,000 this year, even more will be rolling in by the time the event finishes.

“I’m really looking forward to hearing Sydney Hamilton speak,” Helliesen added. Sydney is the Key West High School student who has battled cancer since she was two years old. Sydney started the local charity Sydney’s Hope Project, where she gives children stuffed animals, toys and games while they are undergoing cancer treatments. “She is a big-time volunteer and a real inspiration.”

According to the American Cancer Society website, Relay For Life is the world’s largest and most impactful fundraising event to end cancer. It unites communities across the globe to celebrate people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and take action to finish the fight once and for all. Today, with the support of thousands of volunteers, the American Cancer Society is helping save more than 400 lives a day. Relay For Life started 30 years ago in Washington.


The ACS is hosting its 12th annual Diamond Gala on Saturday, April 25 at Marriot Beachside. A VIP reception starts at 6 p.m. with hosts Jon Landau and wife, Julie. Landau is the Oscar-winning producer of movies like “Avatar” (he’s taking time off the production of the sequel to attend) and “Titanic.” He usually has his golden statue in tow. Contact Carrie Helliesen for more info at 305-292-2333.


Schedule of Events for Relay for Life:

Friday, April 17

5 p.m. Survivor reception and Bubba System

6 p.m. Opening ceremonies and blessing by Rev. Sarah Fowler, Color Guard and National Anthem

6:30 p.m. Sydney Hamilton’s survivor story followed by the survivor’s lap and caregiver’s lap

7 p.m. Coffee Mill Dancers and HOB Dancers, music by Blessed Gospel Choir

7:30 p.m. Zumba

8 p.m. Music by NW Izzard

9 p.m. Luminaria ceremony and bagpipe music, lightshow

10 p.m. Music by K-Mac

11 p.m. Belly dancing with Judith Cisneros


Saturday, April 18

6 a.m.  “Wake Up” (Reveille Call) / 20th Anniversary Segment

8 a.m. Yard Sale

10 a.m. Music by Love Lane Gang

11:30 a.m. Closing Ceremonies

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