Lori Libhart is certain of one thing.
Armwood High School, she said, “is where we needed to be.”
As president-elect of the Greater Seffner Area Chamber of Commerce, Libhart was speaking on behalf of the volunteers, organizers, participants and community, school and business interests that came together to break a fundraising record at the American Cancer Society’s Greater Seffner Relay For Life.
This year the event, for the first time, was held at Armwood High School, which under its new principal, Mike Ippolito, allowed for the use of the school’s football field and track.
“It’s where we needed to be and it’s a bigger, more [fitting venue] than what we had at Burnett Middle School,” Libhart added, in reference to the site for the previous Relays, where portable lights had to be set up for the overnight event.
“Seffner and the surrounding communities always have been very warm-hearted, “ Libhart added. “And they do come together for causes.”
The Relay For Life movement in Eastern Hillsborough County is one of those occasions and Seffner is one big reason why the overall effort this year has surpassed last year’s totals, at least for the first three events of 2012.
According to records obtained April 5 from the American Cancer Society unit on Oakfield Drive in Brandon, the three Relays held the weekend of March 30 to April 2 collectively raised $377,487 dollars, a 13.7 percent increase over the year before.
Accounting for the highest percentage increase were the folks from Seffner, who six years ago raised around $6,000, but this year broke a record at $53,426, a 33.7 percent increase over the prior year’s total of $40,275.
(Note: Relay teams raise money in the months preceding, and weeks following, their overnight weekend events, so this year’s final tallies are not final numbers.)
Along with Seffner, Relays at FishHawk’s Newsome High School and at Riverview High School raised $158,569 and $165,492, respectively.
The Newsome Relay posted a 6.9 percent increase while Riverview came in with a 15.5 percent rise.
Sue Smith, executive director of Delaney Creek Ridge, an assisted living facility in Seffner, headed this year’s town Relay.
She also is a cancer survivor.
“I lost a kidney to cancer, but I’m okay,” she said. "I'd trade a kidney for my life any day. It makes me want to help everybody through that journey."
“Cancer,” she added, “just makes you respect every day of your life.”
“Nobody knows what it’s like when you stand there and the doctor says, ‘You have cancer,’ ” Smith said. “It’s very frightening but it makes you very strong because you’re determined you’re going to beat it.”
The Relay For Life season in Eastern Hillsborough County continues with events April 13-14 at Bloomingdale High, April 14-15 at Brandon High and April 20-21 at Plant City High. The SouthShore Relay For Life this year will be held at Lennard High School, also April 14-15. The SouthShore Relay alternates years at Lennard and East Bay High.
So far, Bloomingdale, Brandon, Plant City and SouthShore collectively have raised $149,243, according to the amounts posted for each Relay online. That number is expected to rise dramatically, as the four Relays last year collectively raised $570,165.