Walkers, non-walkers invited to rally around cancer-fighting event

Published on: March 8, 2018

A group of Kings Point residents walk in last year’s Mini-Relay for Life at Freedom Plaza. There’s still time for neighborhoods, houses of worship, businesses, clubs and individuals to start teams for this year’s event, which will take place March 22. Visit


There’s hardly a person among us whose life hasn’t in some way been touched by cancer.

The life-threatening disease affects people of all ages, but as we grow older the odds become greater that we have lost loved ones or friends to cancer or that we, or someone we know, will be diagnosed with it. That gives us all an investment in supporting the American Cancer Society’s research for a cure.

Toward that end the Retired Officers Corporation at Freedom Plaza and the Sun City Area Chamber of Commerce will host the Sun City Center Mini-Relay for Life March 22 at Golf View Terrace Circle at Freedom Plaza. The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and everyone in the community is invited.

Since March is designated as Veterans Caregivers Month, the event is themed “Rally Your Troops to Fight Cancer.” It’s designed with seniors in mind, and you don’t have to walk to participate.

“This is very personal to me right now,” said organizer Connie Lesko, an employee of the Retired Officers Corporation. “My 55-year-old nephew, (Ken Hawkins of Brandon), whom I’m really close to, has been diagnosed with colon cancer that’s now metastasized to his lungs.

“He’s in the midst of chemotherapy treatment and tolerating it well, so we’re very encouraged and hopeful,” she continued. “But I also understand the long-term prognosis may not be good.”

Her nephew’s friends have formed a team called #Hawkinsstrong to participate in the mini-relay, and Lesko will be walking with the Freedom Fighters, a team from Freedom Plaza. Other teams currently include the Aston Gardens Walkamolies, Chamber Champions, Sun City Center Emergency Squad, Team Thor and Greg Green for County Judge, Group 2.

There’s still time for neighborhoods, houses of worship, businesses, clubs and individuals to start teams of their own. Visit

There are many more ways to help. You can make an outright donation online or at the event, donate to an existing team or simply come out and join the festive activities at mini-relay.

Teams like last year’s Patriots in Paradise team raise additional funding for cancer research at the annual Mini-Relay for Life.

The mini-relay will include an opening ceremony; Survivors Lap and tent; American Heroes Lap; luminaria ceremony, themed golf-cart-decorating contest and parade; entertainment by local performer and cancer survivor Thor Stevens; and more. Three nice prizes will be awarded for the best decorated carts, Lesko said.

The East Bay High School Color Guard will present the colors and Veterans Administration resources and information will be available on site. Food and beverages will be sold, and there will be lots of door prizes.

Sponsors include Watson Clinic, DaVita Medical Group, Oldies But Goodies dance club, Sun City Center Plumbing Services, Freedom Plaza, Aston Gardens and Club Car of Sun City.

“I’m so excited about the relay this year,” Lesko said. “Plans are underway, some great people are involved, and it will be so much fun. The relay is an opportunity to honor those who’ve lost their battle with cancer and celebrate survivors, all while raising money for research. So wear your red, white and blue and come join the fun.”

It’s all for an important cause.

“According to American Cancer Society national statistics, the cancer death rate has declined by 25 percent since 1991,” said Samantha Schneider, community development manager for the society’s southeast Hillsborough County region. “However, we still have work to do as cancer affects one of every two men and one of every three women. Join us in the fight against cancer so we can continue to reduce death rates.”

All proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society and its ongoing research to stop this dreaded disease.

“We also provide free programs and services to cancer patients and their families, including transportation to and from treatment and lodging during treatment, Schneider said.

For more information, visit or call Lynne Conlan at 813-634-5111; Lesko at 813-927-1147; or Schneider at 941-720-1115.