CRESTVIEW — Krystal Jackson, the Hub City's Relay for Life event chair, credited local residents for contributing to Okaloosa County's fundraising success.
The county's fundraising efforts for the annual event, which benefits the American Cancer Society, made it No. 1 per capita for 2012, the organization announced Thursday. Relay teams in Crestview, Niceville, Fort Walton Beach and Destin reportedly raised more than $524,000 during last spring's events.
Crestview's contributions ranked 24th among Florida's more than 350 Relay teams, officials said. Fort Walton's donations ranked seventh in the state.
Each city's efforts propelled Okaloosa to the top spot — a first for this northwest Florida area, said Shelly Miller, the American Cancer Society Emerald Coast's operating chair.
“Considering Relay for Life events are held in 50 states and more than 20 countries around the globe, this is such an amazing accomplishment for our relatively small population,” said Cal Brooks, the American Cancer Society's Panhandle area executive director. “The strength and sheer dedication of our volunteers and staff made this possible.”
"We feel blessed to have the support from the Crestview community," Jackson said following the event. "To have this recognition is overwhelming."
Sponsored teams of organizations, churches, friends and family members annually spend one night camping out, take turns walking and running on a racetrack and commemorate those diagnosed with cancer.
"Because cancer never sleeps and for one night, neither do the Relay (participants)," a spokesperson said, adding 5,000 Relay for Life events take place worldwide.
The American Cancer Society's Emerald Coast unit has more than 700 volunteers in Okaloosa, Walton and Holmes counties, and five staffers, according to the organization.
This year's Relay for Life is April 26 and 27 at Old Spanish Trail Park in Crestview.
More than 50 teams participated in last year's event, which raised more than $155,000 for the American Cancer Society.
Jackson said she expects this year's final numbers will match an upward trend.
"Most places have their good and bad years; with Crestview, we have seen continuous growth and we hope to keep it going in that upward motion," she said.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.