Bonita Springs — In the eyes of Relay for Life participants, all cancer survivors are precious. This was evident as survivors, wearing their purple shirts, opened the Bonita Springs Relay for Life at Riverside Park on Saturday, April 14. As the 60 survivors walked the track, they were led by 5-year-old Tony Marroquin and Cathie Bartlett. Though decades separate the two by age, a common thread binds them together — they are surviving cancer. This thread traveled through the line of purple-clad people walking together to raise money for the American Cancer Society. They were of all ages, professions, backgrounds and ethnicities. Each has fought, or is still fighting, their personal battle with cancer.
Tony Marroquin had just been released from the hospital the morning of Relay. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy for stage 4 leukemia. He was all smiles and laughter as he ran and played with friends who were there to support Marroquin and the others battling cancer.
There was another, very different, but still very special survivor present who brought a smile to the face of Marroquin and all others present at Relay. Barkley is a 6-year-old labradoodle who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in January and had to have his front, left leg removed. Barkley belongs to Bonita Springs resident Jim O’Leary and his family. Wearing a purple shirt tied around his neck, Barkley walked with his family and the other survivors around the track. He was led by Jean O’Leary, Jim’s mother, who is a cancer survivor.
“Barkley is just another example of how cancer can affect families,” said Bobbi Bird, chair of the 2012 Bonita Springs Relay. “It’s not just a mother, father, sister.
“The family pet is just as much a part of the family.”
Bird, who was first diagnosed with cancer 50 years ago, when she was 9 years old, asked the O’Learys to bring Barkley to Relay to walk in the survivor lap.
The 2012 Relay raised nearly $50,000 for the American Cancer Society. According to Allison Freeman, Relay Community Representative, the Bonita Springs Relay has until Aug. 21 to meet their goal of $65,000. Information is available at www.relayforlife.org or by calling 239-261-0037.