Lakewood Ranch schools lead Relay volunteerism

rdymond@bradenton.comMay 5, 2014 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Although banks, medical offices and others brought teams to the American Cancer Society 2014 Lakewood Ranch Relay For Life at the Lakewood Ranch YMCA Sunday, school participants were most impressive.

The event drew roughly 300 for a sunny experience featuring love bugs rather than Saturday's rain drops and sumo wrestling in inflated outfits for children. It was rescheduled after a rainout Saturday.

Organizer Jennifer Milley said several teams couldn't make it back for Sunday but most did.

One teams that did was the Nolan Middle School National Junior Honor Society and eighth-grade leaders Katrina Winkler and Kyle Wray.

The Nolan NJHS, as they call themselves, worked all year for Sunday, Katrina and Kyle said.

"We raised more than $5,000 for the Relay," Katrina said.

They started in October at Halloween by setting up haunted houses in the sixth- and eighth-grade hallways. Students, parents, visitors, anyone who came by put in $3 for the American Cancer Society and got a scare, Kyle said.

"It feels really good," Katrina said of the money raised. "It's amazing we worked all year and we proved even people our age can make a difference."

"Tons of people signed up for the Relay from NJHS," Kyle said. "The response was terrific."

At another tent, the Braden River Middle School Family Career and Community Leaders of America were on their way to raising more than $1,800 for the Relay, said Director Jill Bergeron.

"This is the eighth year we have done it," Bergeron said of the team, which bakes cupcakes, makes bracelets and aprons and sells frothy gourmet coffee drinks during the school year.

Bergeron said Braden River gives its all in honor of three teachers who died of cancer -- Betsy Gough, Carol Williams and Allison Whitaker.

The Lakewood Leaders of Lakewood Ranch High School was roughly 50 strong and makes the Relay one of its biggest events of the year, said President Kyle Sailer. The team hung out in its own school stagecoach.

For Sailer it was also a special day because his grandmother, Nancy Sailer of Stuart, has had cancer of the hand and lost fingers.

"I'm dedicating the day to her," Sailer said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @Richard Dymond

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