More than 230 pairs of feet will hoof it around Central Park during the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Largo starting at 6 p.m. Friday night.
The 2010 event to raise money in the fight against cancer marks the first time the city hosts the overnight relay at Central Park. "For about 10 years or so, it's been held at Largo High School, because of the track,'' said Jonathan Evans, the assistant to Largo's city manager and event organizer.
So far 19 teams have committed to the weekend. Each team is responsible for having at least one of its members walking on the park's main trail at all times.
The program will kick off with a Survivors Lap in which cancer survivors are invited to circle the park together to celebrate the victories they've achieved over cancer. After sundown, a luminaria ceremony, to honor loved ones lost to cancer as well as to honor those who have won their battle, will be held.
Organizers also have a full slate of games and activities scheduled, Evans said. "Even at 3 a.m., we have something going on. For those not walking or not resting at that time, they can participate in a group game of Simon Says, for example.''
The new location is a chance for the city to showcase Central Park, according to Evans. "People who are registered will start setting their camp sites in the park starting at 5 p.m. It'll be something to see.''
Lola Lochner, a two-time breast cancer survivor, is looking forward to seeing the event in the new location. Lochner, whose bouts with the disease hit her at age 73 and again at 79, sees Relay for Life as a way for those stricken with cancer to forge new friendships while gaining knowledge. "I remember the first time I attended it was about a year after my first diagnosis,'' said Lochner, 85. "My daughter (Mary Walsh) got involved with the Relay, and so my family was with me. It was so very emotional seeing so many people participating who were in such a bad way with cancer.''
One of this year's team captains is Diane Bruner, Largo's city clerk. She and her sister, Jane Bruner, are participating to honor the memory of their stepmother, Patricia Bruner, who died in 1997 of ovarian cancer. "She was diagnosed in 1990 and went through surgery and chemotherapy,'' said Bruner, 46. "There was a point where she thought the cancer was gone. But a year later, it came back.''
Evans also has a personal stake in the battle against cancer. "My father (Vivian A. Evans) died of prostate cancer in 2004, and ever since, it's been one of my convictions to help people gain knowledge in fighting cancer."