SAN ANTONIO — People have been picking through the books on the front porch of Lookin' Good Salon on the main street through town. It's shaded, but the books feel warm. Dan Brown's Angels & Demons. Fodor's 1993 edition of England and Wales. Harlequin romances next to Christian devotionals. They're all a buck apiece, and so far the ladies at the salon have raised about $400 or so for cancer research.
It seems as though everyone in San Antonio — a small town with a census population of just over 1,000 — is pitching in for the Relay for Life event on April 12 and 13.
There have been lemonade stands. Bake sales. Yard sales. Car washes. Businesses donating part of their sales. Barbara Sessa, the city clerk, has even been "flocking" residents for a donation — she goes stealthily in the night to place pink flamingoes in front yards. It's been a big hit.
Last year was the city's first year, and the goal was to raise $35,000.
Instead, they raised $62,000.
This year, they're shooting for nearly $70,000.
"We're a close-knit community that works well together," said Betty Burke, a lifelong San Antonio resident who knows everyone and is also owner of an antique store facing the town's park. "We still have that small-town feel."
When Burke turned 50, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. This year is her 15th anniversary of being cancer free. Last year, Burke, a woman named Patty Richter and a few other women joined together to found the town's event (which also includes Dade City residents) and have been the force behind Relay, an international fundraiser sponsored by the American Cancer Society that has been going since 1985. More than 3-million Americans participate each year, and Relay events also are in 18 different countries worldwide.
In Pasco County, there will be several Relay events coming up in the next few weeks, but the San Antonio event is among the first.
The Relay isn't just about raising money, though that is a big part of it, of course. It's also to cheer on people who are going through cancer right now and to applaud survivors and honor those who have passed. Each town's event is a reflection of the community, so all are unique.
But they all have the same constant — volunteers will be walking for 24 hours straight, because cancer never sleeps. Teams walk in shifts throughout the day and night. At San Antonio's Relay, there will be food and games and music. The headliners are the Bellamy Brothers, who will give a benefit concert from 7 to 8:30 p.m. April 12. After the concert, luminaries will be lighted throughout the park in remembrance of those lost to cancer.
"The people of San Antonio have such a warm heart," said Jean Harberts, community representative with the American Cancer Society in Pasco. "They get it — they get the mission and they have the passion."
Erin Sullivan can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4609.