This year’s American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life was held in Palmetto Bay’s Coral Reef Park. Called ShamROCK in the Park, since it was held the day before St. Patrick’s Day, the day was filled with energy, emotion and fundraising.
Organized by Suzanne Levitats, whose husband is a 20-year cancer survivor (after being told he had 4-months to live), explained, “I’ve been organizing this event for 8 years. Bringing awareness to the community and raising money is what we do. Our goal is to bring an end to cancer and we know this helps. Locally, we’ve raised more than $19M for local use in the fight against cancer.”
“This is awe-inspiring and emotional at times. To see the community respond like this is tremendous,” husband Mark added. “I know that a cancer patient needs everyone by their side pushing them forward. When I went through it, I started asking ‘Why me? Why did I get cancer?’ and eventually the question changed to ‘Why did I survive’. I’m not sure, but I do know that the support, love and attention from my family, friends and community helped in the battle. Everyone needs champions in their corner during the battle.”
Tears, hugs and smiles powered the day, especially with the Luminaria Ceremony, where hundreds of candles in white bags were lit in honor of those who were and are battling cancer.
The event was co-hosted and supported by Pinecrest, Palmetto Bay, Cutler Bay and Homestead as well as a host of sponsors. Palmetto Bay Mayor Karyn Cunningham said, “We want to give hope to those with cancer. Every bite of food, every activity and anything bought at this event raises money that go directly to fight cancer.” Pinecrest Mayor Joe Corradino added, “This is one of the best community events we do all year and it is great to see all of South Dade come together. It’s fantastic to be a part of this.”
2018 Stage 2 cancer survivor and attendee Anthony Askowitz summed up how it felt to him, “This event never loses its impact. I put on the purple Survival T-Shirt when I arrived at the event, but had to take it off mid-way through because it felt ‘too heavy’ for me. I’m done with cancer and taking that shirt off was a liberating statement for me.”
ShamROCK in the Park featured local school performances, and, as the name implied, some great rock bands that took the event from evening into the night. It is estimated that the relay, carried out by teams and individuals, logged hundreds of miles of steps. You can make a donation to benefit South Dade at relayforlife.org/southdadeFL.