By Martie Thompson

“Lights, Camera, Cure” was the local theme at this year’s Relay for Life of the First Coast, held on April 22 at Nease High School. According to the American Cancer Society’s Senior Development Manager Jaclyn Rodriguez, it was a traditional Relay in a shorter time frame than years past, but all went smoothly. 

“The weather was beautiful up until about 6 p.m., right before the luminaria ceremony, when we had a 15 minute downpour,” Rodriguez said. “After that, though, we had a beautiful rainbow.”

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Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s signature national fundraising event and it has been around locally for many years. According to Rodriguez, pre-Covid there were four Relays in the area, but post-pandemic they have combined them into one big event. This year, there were approximately 50 registered fundraising teams, with about 15 of them showing up with a tent at the event. (Teams can fundraise outside of the event itself.)

“We had about 250 people attend First Coast Relay, but we’re working diligently to get attendance up in 2024 by partnering with more of the schools and other community groups,” Rodriguez said.

The fundraising total for Relay for Life of the First Coast as of mid-May was $92,066, well above the goal of $80,000. The top fundraising team was the Chemours Company, which was still sending in donations as of press date.

World’s Greatest Heating and Air of Nocatee participated in the event by giving away free cotton candy and snow cones to attendees from their purple truck. After the event, Rodriguez said they followed up with a generous $1,000 donation.

Relay for Life of the First Coast featured traditional Relay activities like the Luminaria Ceremony to honor those lost to cancer and the Survivors’ Lap to celebrate those still fighting. Rodriguez said silly games like Cheeto Head and a frozen shirt race also entertained attendees. The Road to Recovery lap focused on the American Cancer Society’s mission and programs; teams made a personalized vehicle to go around the track and earned spirit points as a way to keep the crowd engaged.

Rodriquez said donations raised help fund signature programs like Hope Lodge near Mayo Clinic, where patients receive free lodging during cancer treatment. The American Cancer Society Road To Recovery program provides free rides to medical appointments and treatment for people with cancer.

“This was a building year for us, post pandemic, as we came back to schools for Relay locations,” Rodriguez said. “I can’t stress enough how much our partnerships mean to us, especially Nease High School which hosted us.”

Rodriguez said organizers are working already to get more schools and more community members involved for next year’s Relay, which will again be held at Nease High School (date is to be announced.)

Visit and for more information about Relay for Life of the First Coast. Visit for more information about the American Cancer Society and the programs it offers.

Photo courtesy Jaclyn Rodriguez

Teams along the track at Nease High School.

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