River Cities

Relay for Life in Miami Springs "rocks" amid some raindrops

PURPLE POWER: Rain clouds and raindrops did not deter the crowds from taking part in the Relay for Life on Saturday, March 7 when, for the second year in a row, Miami Springs’ version of the event met the organizers’ fundraising goals.
PURPLE POWER: Rain clouds and raindrops did not deter the crowds from taking part in the Relay for Life on Saturday, March 7 when, for the second year in a row, Miami Springs’ version of the event met the organizers’ fundraising goals. Gazette Photo

The Miami Springs Relay For Life rocked the Miami Springs Circle last Saturday (March 7) as the community once again united for a good cause. This year’s theme was “Relay like a Rockstar,” and that they did. The weather didn’t cooperate completely but that didn’t stop the faithful from having fun while raising funds for a cause that is near and dear to the hearts of so many Miami Springs and Virginia Gardens residents.

"We are over the moon excited that for the second year in a row we were able to meet our fundraising goal,” said RFL Event Chair Susan Baan. “We are already over our goal of $53,000 and donations are still coming in. We could have had better weather, but it never damped our spirit. Even with the bad weather we walked, because cancer doesn’t care about rain!”

The opening ceremony began at 9 a.m. and brought everyone together for a high-energy event kick off that celebrated the lives of those who have battled cancer. The survivors lap marked the start of the Relay as local cancer survivors took the first lap around the Circle as participating teams and onlookers cheered them on, celebrating their victory over cancer.

Fundraising began many months ago with a total of 17 teams and well over 100 participants all contributing and helping the event to surpass the total fundraising goal.

The Pretty in Pink Team from Woodys West End Tavern, led by two-time cancer survivor team captain Elaine Martin and fellow team captain Caitlin Smith, was at the top of the leader board. Team captain Karl Bithorn and super fundraiser Gisela Kelly led the way for the MS/VG Optimist Club with their team named M.A.S.H., as in mash out cancer. Team Ghostbusters was led by team captain Tony Carnevale and with Baan on the team, they were able to raise big funds. Team Elizabeth Arden and their captain Sandy Solano brought in big money, along with so many other contributors like the Miami Springs Lions Club, led by team captain Barbara Poorman. Other teams that could be seen around the Circle raising money were The Rotary Club of Hialeah Miami Springs; Drew’s Crew; The Woman’s Club Survivor Luncheon Team; Crackers for the Cure; The Disney Store; The Secret Cycling; and the Message from Marli Team.

A special team this year was named in honor of Miami Springs resident and MSSH teacher Mariana Laney. #TeamLaney was a combination of students from Dance Fusion and Crossbridge Church.

“The minute we got the RFL date, we knew that we had to honor Ms. Laney and #TeamLaney started their fundraising,” said team captain Lissette Piedra. “Ms. Laney has gone through so much and has touched the lives of so many students, including my own daughter. Dance Fusion is a community club and giving back to our community is our motto. As their sponsor I couldn’t be any prouder. With God by their side a group of girls with a passion for hip-hop have come together and helped make this world better. Springs has been hit hard this year, Ms. Laney and little Daniella Collazo, both locals. We need to continue fighting for a cure and continue to pray for them both.”

Another very special highlight of the day came when Miami Springs sweetheart and cancer warrior Daniella Collazo came by for a visit. Daniella’s short visit included some dancing and a special gift. The Pretty in Pink Team (who wore tutus all day) gave Daniella a pink tutu and named her an honorary member of the team. Daniella brightened up the day for all of the volunteers who had to deal with clouds and rain throughout the day.

Rain or shine, the party continued on. Fun included bounce houses, archery, many games of chance, and lots of music, including Ricky Valido and the Hialeah Hillbillies and Barefoot Jax. There were presentations by Jazzercise and a crowd favorite, the Hip Hop Kids, to mention a few. A special addition this year was the Survivors Lounge set up by Elizabeth Kourtesis Fisher, where survivors were able to put their feet up and enjoy lemonade, a hammock, and even a massage provided by Millie Leon of A Time for You Massage and Colonic Center.

Much like the volunteers who just wouldn’t give up, neither would the torrential downpour. At about 7 p.m. the RFL committee was forced to end the festivities.

“I would like to extend my thanks to all the teams for their hard work, everyone who donated online and all who came out the day of the Relay. I also can’t say enough about our committee. They all put in 100 percent and it showed,” Baan said. “Because we had to end this year’s Relay early, we did not get to do the Luminaria ceremony. So we are hoping to have a beautiful Luminaria ceremony at our wrap-up party. The date and location will be announced soon.”