UPDATE: Relay for Life raises more than $235K

Sue Keller

After cancer survivors, their families and supporters gathered in Mackle Park for the annual Relay for Life, organizers announced that the 12-hour fundraiser exceeded the American Cancer Society's goal, raising $235,000 – and counting.

Robert J. Flugger, Relay's major presenting sponsor for the second year, recognized all participants.

"The most important thing is looking out today at all the survivors and teams represented today and all the hard work you have done in the last five months," said Flugger. "And I might add looking at No. 5 in the state last year, we hope we can inch up by one or two each year, becoming No. 4 and then No. 3. Again, I just can't tell you enough how much I appreciate the effort of all the teams and the leadership."

Sue Olszak, community manager for Relay, praised the volunteers.

"We could not have done it without our record-breaking teams participating and fundraising for the past six months."

The 35 Relay teams kicked off fundraising in November and will continue to raise money until the end of August.

Two teams, Hideaway Chips Away At Cancer and the Marco Beach Marriott, finished in the top 25 nationwide for raising funds.

On Saturday, the Knights of Columbus color guard opened the ceremony. Cancer survivors followed the color guard around the track for the first lap, to applause of the crowd.

The 2015 Spirit of Relay was awarded to Maureen Chodaba, a cancer survivor who has given back to Marco community. She also was participating in Relay and is a Relay committee member.

Jamie Bergen is this year's Relay For Life chair; she was vice chair last year.

The cancer society also announced that Marco unit executive director Lisa Hoenig has a new title – she is now senior manager for distinguished events and in charge of all the ACS galas from Marco to Tampa.

Participants' comment

• "It was all exciting and a bit overwhelming," said new survivor and Marco resident Dorothy Sands. Her caregiver is her fiancée Rob Eder, a teacher at Marco Island Academy.

• World War II veteran Robert Sergeant, a two-time cancer survivor, came with his daughter, Marsha Jarvis, who also is a cancer survivor.

"I had bladder cancer, and after treatment was clean for 27 years," said Sergeant who proudly announced he was born in 1924. After a second bout, he is cancer free and living an active life on Marco Island.

• Shane Totton has been cancer-free for 22 years. He has attended every Relay since it started 12 years ago.

"The best part of my day is when I open my eyes," said Totton who teaches seventh-grade science at Marco Island Charter Middle School. "It's great ... life is good"