At the beginning of this year’s Relay for Life fundraiser on the Circle last Saturday, April 27, event chair Sandra Ortiz announced that the organization had already raised more than $31,000 toward its goal of $65,000.
At the end of the event, the total had jumped to $40,393 and fundraising is still ongoing. Last year the cancer fighters raised just under $60,000.
Beginning with a prayer and the “Star Spangled Banner” beautifully sung by Reyna Aday, this year’s Relay for Life was an overnighter, starting at noon on Saturday and ending at 6 a.m. on Sunday.
The city closed the Circle so teams could keep at least one member walking around the Circle at all times. Twenty hardy people representing eight teams spent the night on the Circle.
Relay for Life for Miami Springs was initiated by Suzanne Conlon Wolar, who began volunteering for the American Cancer Society after losing her mother, Sara Conlon, to the disease 20 years ago.
In 2001, Conlon Wolar was president of the local Chamber of Commerce and brought the idea of sponsoring a Cancer Walk to the city of Miami Springs. The Walk evolved into the inaugural Relay for Life in 2008, which was chaired by Conlon Wolar.
The event was such a success that she left the family business, Cheesecakes etc., to pursue a career with the American Cancer Society. She was ACS staff partner for two years before being promoted to associate director for the Miami-Dade Unit where she oversaw 30 Relay for Life events in the county. She retired last year.
“This year I was part of the Cancer Survivor Committee along with Judy Walton and Joan Cavalier,” Conlon Wolar said. “We make sure survivors get noticed and have a luncheon for them. This year it was held at Grace Lutheran Church and the food was home-cooked by the wonderful members of the Miami Springs Woman’s Club.”
Although fundraising for cancer research is a serious endeavor, Relay for Life on the Circle included a lot of partying — fun and games, food, music and entertainment ranging from Jazzercise to a comedian to amazing belly dancers and local talent. As always, it was another opportunity for neighbors to get together for a good cause.
“The dedicated volunteers who are here year in and year out are amazing,” said Ortiz, a Springs native. “They continue to motivate and surprise me. This has been one of the proudest days of my life to represent the community I love so much, and to try and eradicate cancer.”
Kathy Doyle, retired MSSH English teacher and still active in the Miami Springs Senior High Anchor Club, said. “I’m so proud of Sandra. She was a student of mine and an Anchor Club member. She has done an amazing job supervising this event.”