By Chuck Ballaro
This weekend's Relay for Life at North Fort Myers High School is expected to be the biggest ever.
With nearly twice the teams as expected and an influx of teams that attend the school, this relay should be one for the record books as far as money raised.
And that should warm the cockles of the heart of Kim Correll, whose family has made this event an annual rite in tribute to her mother, who died of cancer.
The Correll family, which moved to North Fort Myers more than 40 years ago, got involved after Kim's mother died of cancer in 2008. Her children, all of whom are grown, were devastated.
"My oldest daughter (Megan) got involved with the American Cancer Society and asked me to do it as well," Correll said. "Three years ago, she asked me to help out at a Relay For Life for an hour. I ended up staying 18 hours.
"Four years later, we have 15 family members involved and I'm publishing a cookbook. We call ourselves 'The Shenanigans'" Correll said.
The family has spread out, with members living all throughout Southwest Florida. But because the mother was from North Fort Myers, the family does that relay.
During the relay, it is custom that each group put together some sort of project to help raise more money, such as a bake sale or raffles. This year, Correll has put together a cookbook, which they will sell to raise more money while other team members walk.
There are also many fun events that happen during the night.
"All 23 teams have all these methods to raise money. We have crazy events such as when the men walk around the track dressed as women and another with hats and another where we make outfits out of newspaper."
Many of the participants are from the high school, such as the ROTC, the band, and football team, because it's the first year they've held the event at the high school, Correll said.
But even though there are many kids involved, there lay is still a symbol of the journey cancer victims go through, from diagnosis to remission, from sunset, to the long darkness, and finally the light.
"They start going to doctors and treatments and wonder if they're ever going to make it, then you get to the chemo and radiation, and you get sick all the time," Correll said. "Then they tell you you've beaten cancer. The 18 hours symbolize the process."
Correll said the family has heard the stories from other families and have grown a bond with them as well. For it brings people you never would have met otherwise, but with a common thread, together for a great cause.
"It's a learning experience, it's a bonding experience. It's a wonderful organization and I think it benefits a lot of people," Correll said. "You never know what connections are made."