World Record Attempt at Charity Challenge Helps Raise Cancer Awareness
story by MARY TOOTHMAN
The third time was supposed to be the charm – but an attempt on April 15 to break the World Record of a human cancer awareness ribbon did not have Mother Nature on its side.
Still, organizer Chris Hazelwood sounded anything but defeated in the aftermath of the Charity Challenge that brought in 400 to 500 people — instead of the 10,000 they had aspired to draw.
“In no way was it a failure,” she said with great cheer. “It was an amazing event. People who came got to be in the ribbon and they got to see a baseball game.”
The World Record Human Cancer Ribbon event was held at the Publix field at Joker Marchant Stadium. Participants were draped in purple ponchos – to represent the all-inclusive cancer awareness color.
According to the American Cancer Society, cancer is a group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. If the spread is not controlled, it can result in death.
Although the reason why the disease develops remains unknown for many cancers — particularly childhood cancers — there are many known causes.
Lifestyle factors, such as tobacco use and excess body weight, and non-modifiable factors, such as inherited genetic mutations, hormones, and immune conditions, are known causes. These risk factors may act simultaneously or in sequence to initiate and/or promote cancer growth.
More than 15.5 million Americans with a history of cancer were alive on January 1, 2016. Some were diagnosed recently and are still undergoing treatment, while most were diagnosed many years ago and have no current evidence of cancer.
About 1.7 million new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2018 — 135,170 of them in Florida.
After the ribbon formation, participants could attend the baseball game between the Lakeland Tigers and the Charlotte Stone Crabs. The Tigers were decked out in special, purple jerseys for the event.
Two other local attempts to set the same record, one in 2012 and another in 2014, fell short of the goal. Hazelwood said there was a feeling that this past try would be the winning one — but it just wasn’t to be. “It was too windy for our helicopter to land, and for the official photo to be taken — and we couldn’t do the release of the doves, either,” she said.
Saudi Arabia set the Guinness World Record for the largest human awareness ribbon on Dec. 15, 2015, with 8,264 participants. While Lakeland’s recent try had between 400 and 500 people, about 5,000 tickets were sold at $5 each.
“It was the weather,” Hazelwood said. “But you know, the main reason for it was to raise awareness, and we did that.
“I am very proud of my event.”
A breast cancer survivor, Hazelwood has been involved in a number of local charity and cancer awareness events. He’s upbeat and not easily deferred — but fell short of vowing that the human ribbon will be attempted again. While it may not be a human ribbon event, it seems certain Hazelwood will soon be working on another awareness effort of some type soon.
In 2018, 609,640 cancer deaths are projected to occur in the United States. Over the past decade of data, the cancer incidence rate (2005‐2014) was stable in women and declined by about 2 percent annually in men. The cancer death rate (2006‐2015) declined by 1.5 percent annually in both men and women. The combined cancer death rate dropped continuously from 1991 to 2015 by a total of 26 percent. That translates to about 2,378,600 fewer cancer deaths than would have been expected if death rates had remained at their peak. Of the 10 leading causes of death, only cancer declined from 2014 to 2015.