WESLEY CHAPEL — Most of them thought about winning. Ice cream parties were on the line here. Someone might nab a free T-shirt.
But at least one of the Seven Oaks Elementary students participating in the school's mini version of the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life had something else on her mind Thursday.
"I hope it will help my grandma get better from cancer," said Mary Cerra, 8.
Last year, Seven Oaks Elementary School raised more than $10,000 for Relay for Life. This year, the goal is $12,000.
Throughout the year, the school holds raffles and fundraisers. Next month, staff members will put themselves up for auction. The highest bidding students get an afternoon with their favorite teachers.
"I'm not sure why they want to spend time with their teachers out of school, but they do," said Audrey Sebastian, 28, a second-grade teacher and the school's Relay for Life team captain.
Thursday, she cheered and waved a purple pompom each time a student completed a lap.
Seven Oaks is one of many schools, businesses and community organizations participating in the county's nine relays.
Started in 1986, the team events raise money for cancer research, advocacy efforts and early detection and prevention education. Each Relay for Life features a reception for survivors and a luminaria ceremony to honor those who have passed.
Organizers estimate more than 3.5 million people participate worldwide.
Seven Oaks' version of the fundraiser kicked off Monday. Each class took turns rounding the orange cones set up behind the school. Administrators fueled the children's money raising efforts with the promise of class parties and other prizes for the winners.
By Thursday, the students had turned the one-fifth mile path to dirt and raised more than $2,000.
"It's good to help people and help people survive," said Jordyn Beer, 8.
The first official county Relay for Life will be held tonight at Zephyrhills High School. The County Commission dubbed today through May 9, when the final relays end at Sunlake and J.W. Mitchell high schools, as "Relay for Life Season."
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 435-7312.