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East County Wednesday, Apr. 28, 2021 9 months ago

Virtual strides to fight cancer in Lakewood Ranch

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American Cancer Society hosts virtual events to support those impacted by cancer.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

The pandemic isn’t stopping the American Cancer Society from celebrating cancer survivors, caregivers and those impacted by cancer.

The nonprofit is finding ways for communities to safely come together for Relay for Life and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer events to continue to raise money to fund research and services as well as spread awareness.

“It’s extremely important for our supporters, volunteers and survivors to know we are still here for them and still fighting and fundraising for them,” said Bethany Lynch, a senior development manager for the southeastern region of the American Cancer Society and a River Club resident. “We’re still thinking of them. Cancer hasn’t stopped, and we know that.” 

In Lakewood Ranch, people can gather for the virtual Making Strides Mother’s Day Brunch on May 7. The brunch will be able to reach people from Tampa to Naples because it’s virtual.

Lynch said that in years past, the nonprofit hosted an in-person craft brunch at no cost to survivors and guests.

“They could come and be together, and we would work on a collaborative art project that we used at our walk,” Lynch said. “We did something all together as a Making Strides community.”

Due to the pandemic, Lynch had to switch gears and make the brunch a virtual event, but she still wanted to have an interactive activity for people to do while learning about the mission of the American Cancer Society and hearing stories from survivors.

“Not being able to meet in person takes a little bit out of it, but what I’m trying to encourage people to do is grab your friends, people you would walk with on your team, and make a little brunch of it on your own,” Lynch said.

Shannon Farrell with Sarasota’s Charcuterie and Cheese will give a demonstration on how to make a charcuterie board.

“Personally, I’m looking forward to knowing how to make meat roses,” Lynch said. “I think it’ll be fun to see how everybody does their own boards differently. [Farrell] provides a shopping list, but they can pick out what cheeses and meat they want, and everybody will probably pick something different. It’ll be neat to see how you put your personal spin on it.”

The nonprofit is asking people for stories of motherhood and breast cancer to share during the event, such as Lakewood Ranch’s Alison Cossetti Clough, who was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma and ductal carcinoma in situ when she was 39 years old and the mother of two daughters.

“I knew I had to fight,” Cossetti Clough said. “I had to do it for them. They gave me the strength I needed to continue every day.”

After the Mother’s Day brunch, people can continue to support the American Cancer Society by participating in Relay for Life spirit week, which will lead up to the nonprofit’s national Relay for Life weekend.

Shannon Farrell with Charcuterie and Cheese will give a demonstration on how to make a charcuterie board during the virtual Making Strides Mother's Day brunch. Courtesy photo.

From the safety of home, people can participate in the different theme set for each day and post to social media to show support for the nonprofit.

Themes include sharing why someone participates in Relay for Life, posting tributes to someone impacted by cancer and raising money.

During the national Relay for Life weekend May 14 and 15, the American Cancer Society will have a virtual opening ceremony, survivor and caregiver ceremony, fight back ceremony, luminaria ceremony and closing ceremony through Facebook Live.

The nonprofit will also have different activities for people to participate in virtually, including a Zumba class and TikTok party.

“Not everyone wants to participate in a 24-hour event, so the idea is you can do activities you want as you wish,” said Wendy River, a senior development manager for the southeastern region of the American Cancer Society. “We’re trying to keep everybody as engaged as possible from a distance since we can’t have in-person events. This is a way to keep Relay for Life at the forefront of people’s minds.”

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