One company in Winter Park has cancer running scared — because they’re attacking it with arms linked.
The employees at Holiday Retirement at the Winter Park Village form one of several teams participating in the Relay for Life event Saturday, April 14, at Lake Lily Park.
The team already has beaten its goal of $1,500, currently sitting on more than $1,800 after just a couple weeks. About 20 employees plan on participating in this year’s relay.
“Our committees kind of thought this was such a great opportunity to do something for the community, as well as help us internally develop some bonds and build our culture,” Carissa Lucky said.
Saturday’s event marks the inaugural Orlando Art for Healing Festival, taking the impactful Relay for Life event and blending it with a creative twist. The event will feature fine art on display, with each artist able to have a sign “In Honor of” or “In Memory of” a loved one that has been affected by cancer.
It’s an event that hits home for the staff at Holiday Retirement — many of the members of the group have either known someone who’s fought cancer or have even fought cancer themselves.
“I’m personally a cancer survivor. … I had thyroid cancer at a fairly young age — I was 31,” Adam Dolak said. “I’ve had family with breast cancer, my mother with uterine cancer. I have an uncle now who is dying of lymphoma.
“I don’t know about some people, but I don’t think about every day that I’m a survivor,” he said. “It’s not something that I focus on in my life — it’s kind of in the past. Sometimes it is good though with moments like these where you kind of come back and refocus. You have accomplished something — you have survived something. You became stronger because of it in some ways.”
Dodie Derck has a similar story. She is a three-time cancer survivor after defeating ovarian cancer, colon cancer and discovering micro cells in her abdominal tissue.
Her family also has been fighting. Her mother had pancreatic cancer. Her sister is a lung and colon cancer survivor. Her father had colon cancer as well and her other sister had cervical cancer.
It will be an emotional day on Saturday, she said.
“The most special moment is the Survivors’ Walk,” Derck said. “It’s incredibly emotional. I don’t think anyone gets through that lap without being in tears.
“I always say (cancer has) taken so much joy from our family,” she said. “Saturday I’m not walking for me, although I survived so many forms. I’m walking for my mom, my sister, my dad.”
The event not only gives the group a chance to fight cancer and support research but also a support system where they can lean on one another in the workplace.
“Whenever I’ve attended any event like this, I feel like I have a new support system — someone I can go to who understands what I went through,” said Chellsea Rodriguez, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor.
“Cancer has touched all of us in some way, shape or form — if not directly within our own families than also with our friends who are close to us,” she said. “I think that’s the reason we’re so passionate about it.”
The team members said they plan to participate in Relay for Life every year, and expect to chase after a higher fundraising goal next year.