By Faran Fagen

Gayle Morell joined Relay For Life in 2003 after her cousin was diagnosed with cancer. In 2012, she received her own diagnosis.

This year, the Coral Springs resident and cancer survivor is the Event Lead for the February 8 Kickoff Party of the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Parkland, Coral Springs, Margate, and Coconut Creek.

“I’m not going down without a fight, and Relay represents that fight,” Morell said. “I have so much to fight for; how could I not get involved.”

This year’s kickoff event is taking place on Wednesday, February 8, at the Westglades Middle School gymnasium. The doors open at 6 p.m., and the family-friendly program begins at 6:30. Food, drinks, and dessert will be provided during the event. High school volunteers will engage young children in a kid’s zone while the program runs.

This year, the Relay’s theme is Hollywood. Each team will ensure that their tent decorations match the theme. Others get dressed up and participate in the themed activities during the Relay.

The fundraising goal is $150,000 — $30,000 more than last year’s $120,000 raised. Those monies are used locally to support cancer patients with rides to their appointments. As of January 27, $23,000 was already raised.

“All are welcome to come and help us officially kick off the 2023 Relay season,” said Relay For Life’s Kendra Walsh. “Together, we can beat our biggest rival.” 

Volunteer opportunities abound for high school students who need community service hours. There are also sponsorship opportunities for those businesses who want to participate in the event (Email Lisa.Noel@cancer.org for information).

Relay for Life
Parkland, Coral Springs, Coconut Creek Margate Relay for Life. {courtesy}

Morell’s kids, 14 and 9, volunteer for Relay every year. This year, Morell’s daughter’s school created a Relay Club. Over 60 teams and more than 500 participants will join in raising funds and awareness to free the world from the pain and suffering of cancer.

Morell has dedicated herself to Relay more each year.

“I lost my uncle, a cancer survivor, in 2020,” Morell said. “At the same time, in 2020, my father received his cancer diagnosis. It’s personal.”

Founded by Dr. Gordy Klatt in Tacoma, Washington, in 1985, Relay For Life events around the world have raised nearly $6.5 billion to help the American Cancer Society  (ACS) attack cancer. 

After previously battling stomach cancer, Gordy passed away from heart failure on August 3, 2014, at the age of 71. But his legacy lives on. He shaped an idea that started as one man walking and running a track and helped turn it into a global fundraising phenomenon.

Symbolizing the battle waged around the clock by those facing cancer, the Parkland and Coral Springs event lasts five hours and empowers the community to take a stand against cancer.

Morell’s diagnosis, Neuroendocrine Carcinoma, has treatments but no cure. She’s been receiving treatment every 28 days for a decade. Some notable celebrities who were lost to Neuroendocrine Cancer are Steve Jobs, Dustin Diamond (Screech), Aretha Franklin, and Dave Thomas.

For Morell, being the Lead for Relay this year brings a huge honor.

“To know that I am making an impact in the local community is personally satisfying,” she said. “The goal is that we get to a place where there’s a cure for all cancers. Hopefully, within my lifetime.”

To learn more, visit RelayForLife.org/Parklandfl or contact Lisa.Noel@cancer.org.

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Author Profile

Faran Fagen
Faran Fagen
Faran Fagen, who teaches high school journalism, graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Journalism degree and from Florida Atlantic University with a degree in Education. He's worked at The Palm Beach Post, SunSentinel, and MLB.com. He lives in Coral Springs with his wife and two children. Oh, and his three dogs -- who all think that they're his favorite.
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