The name of the event is not Relay for Cancer Research, because while the proceeds go toward research, the event is about life. This year's Relay for Life event was held at the Pensacola State College Milton campus.
"If I can do something to give another 19-year-old son a survivor's lap, I will," said Jenny Roach. Before she moved to Santa Rosa County, she lost her son to a rare form of cancer when he was only 19 years old. Roach said only 400 people died from the same type of cancer, so the research center she approached turned him down for help because the investment wouldn't be worth it compared to fighting breast or lung cancer., Roach said a deacon at her church offered to help, but her son passed away after his first chemo therapy. Since moving here, Roach said she’s worked diligently, raising money through Relay for Life with the help of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church since 2010. Stories like these abound at Relay for Life, like Monsi Huddleston walking with her children Hayden, Jackson, and Lilly for their uncle, her brother lost to cancer. Becky Bondurant, Central High School teacher and MC for the event, said she's been with Relay for Life since the first one in Milton. Bondurant said cancer has touched her personally, taking her grandfather and students over the years. "There is no greater outreach for students than this event. When you lose a kid, the whole class falls apart," she said. Bondurant said the walk lasts 14 hours overnight to represent the struggle a patient goes through. "You have to dig deep at 2 a.m.," she said. At 9 p.m., victims' names were read and tea lights in bags with those names lined the track. Bondurant said during the reading, "There's not supposed to be a sound. It touches your heart." Despite the solemnity of this moment, the overall feeling of Relay for Life was a celebration. As people walked the track, several youth played volleyball in the sand court and others tossed a disk back and forth. "There will be games all night," Bondurant said. "People will compete for money raised, best food, the best site." One of those competitions was for Mister Relay. Kenny Wilson, custodian from Avalon Middle School, competed for Mister Relay in a green dress, blond wig, and a straw hat. "The point is to see those survivors, to share stories and provide inspiration. It gives hope."