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Party all night and help fight cancer

Hundreds of people will be partying all night long May 16 on the soccer fields of St. Petersburg Junior College, Clearwater campus. As some people walk around a makeshift track glowing from the flickering light of luminarias, others will be playing bingo, singing camp songs or eating gourmet snacks.

While some walk on the track, others may be running, marching or perhaps line dancing.

It will all be going on at this area's second attempt at an American Cancer Society Relay for Life. The relays nationwide have raised millions of dollars for the cancer society. It was tried here once, in 1994, with mixed results, attributed at least in part to a somewhat remote location at Tampa Bay Downs near Oldsmar.

The new location at Drew Street and Old Coachman Road, a block west of U.S. 19, is expected to appeal to a lot more people.

Businesses, clubs, schools, churches, neighborhood associations and groups of relatives or friends are asked to organize teams of 10 to 15 people. Team members must raise at least $100 each in sponsorships.

There's also a registration fee of $10 per person, meaning $100 per team. The sooner that $100 registration fee is turned in, the better the campsite location. First come, first served.

That's right. Each team will set up a camp at which its members will congregate when not on the track. Teams must have at least one person on the track at all times, from about 7 p.m. Friday, May 16, until noon Saturday, May 17.

The cancer society's Linda Baker said teams will be encouraged to adopt a theme to carry out in their attire, campsite decorations and even the food they eat. She mentioned a luau theme, with team members dressed in flowered shirts and leis while listening to Hawaiian music and eating roast pork with pineapples.

Doctors and nurses could adopt a MASH theme. Supporters of the Florida Gators, FSU Seminoles, Tampa Bay Bucs and Tampa Bay Lightning, for example, would have no trouble using their boosterism as a theme.

Although some sort of free food will be available throughout the night, many teams at other relays have prepared their own meals, ranging from steaks by candlelight at one campsite to barbecued chicken by flashlight at the adjacent campsite.

There may be contests, Linda said, to recognize the best cooking and best-decorated campsite.

Although some people undoubtedly will catnap during the night, a variety of activities will be planned for the insomniacs.

It all will start at 6 p.m. May 16, with the first lap reserved for cancer survivors, including those on teams and others stopping by to celebrate their survival and check out the excitement. That will be followed at dusk by the lighting of luminarias _ candles in paper bags _ to honor survivors and remember those who lost their battles with cancer.

The cancer society is enlisting the help of most area chambers of commerce to encourage their business members to organize Relay for Life teams. Those interested in putting together teams are invited to a kickoff breakfast at 7:45 a.m. April 4 at Luby's Cafeteria in Dunedin.

Call the cancer society at 546-9822 if you'd like to attend the breakfast, if you have questions or if you need registration forms.

A Relay for Life video to be shown at the breakfast concludes with this message: "This year, 1,208,000 Americans will be diagnosed with cancer. You can make a difference. Join us in the fight."

While you're raising money for that fight, you'll be able to party the night away. It should be quite a spectacle.

Up next:Team shots