At 10 a.m. Saturday morning, Academy of the Holy Names runner Elizabeth Dolan saw a dream recognized as the first annual Cross Out Cancer 5k race kicked off at Tampa's Picnic Island.
Since April, when she founded the Cross Out Cancer Inc. non-profit, Dolan, along with an executive board of four other members and student reps from 12 local high school cross country teams, planned the race, which benefits All Children's pediatric oncology ward.
The goal was simple: $25,000, through in-school recruitment and sponsorships.
In front of a crowd of runners, volunteers and sponsors at the awards ceremony following the race, Dolan presented All Children's with a check of $42,994.44, well exceeding the goal.
"We've been preparing since about April, so this has been a huge event for us," said Dolan, speaking to the crowd, before presenting Academy's Lindsey Calka and Chamberlain's Thomas Szydlowski with awards for the outstanding girl and boy student rep, respectively.
Wiregrass Ranch's Joseph Salerno won first place overall, while Tampa Prep's Josie Garba won the female individual title. On the team side, Academy of the Holy Names had the most overall participants with 164.
During the awards ceremony, local residents spoke to the audience about their personal struggles with cancer, including Shorecrest Prep runner Olivia Rovin.
Rovin, now a junior, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma Jan. 26 of this year.
"From the beginning, I made up my mind that I wasn't going to let this obstacle ruin my life. As a distance runner, I am familiar with pushing through pain," Rovin said in a speech to the participants.
During her eight weeks of chemotherapy, All Children's worked with Rovin to arrange the once-weekly appointments around her busy schedule. Rovin missed only a few class periods on Fridays, when she received treatment, and then returned to school each Monday.
Despite it all, Rovin still ran in track, competing in only one event, the 800.
"My goal was not to set records, I just wanted to compete the best I could given the circumstances," she said. "My years of running have taught me the power of having a positive mindset when it comes to competition, and this was the most important competition of my life."
Cancer free since April 9, Rovin ran a 19:33.91 at the 1A XC State Finals two weeks ago, good for ninth, one spot better than her goal of a top-ten finish.
She was on the awards podium twice at the 5k Saturday, both as the second-place overall female finisher and as a testament to what the donations raised help support at All Children's, offering words of advice she learned from her journey.
"First, life is so fragile, and we need to enjoy each day as much as we can, because you never know when everything will change," she said. "Second, you are not defined by the obstacles in life, but by how you handle them. Finally, attitude is everything. Having a positive attitude can help you overcome any difficulties you may overcome in your life."