The American Cancer Society’s Pinellas County branch canceled the first-ever LGBT-focused Relay For Life that was slated for March 21.  See Out With Cancer’s letter to the American Cancer Society at http://lgbtcancer.com/out-with-cancer-letter-to-acs-regarding-homophobia/

The event would have been the first of its kind in the country and organizer Bobby Poth was enthusiastic about its potential success. However, officials within the ACS were concerned about an LGBT-focused fundraiser within its organization.

“Shortly after we began to promote this event we encountered hesitation from a few people within the organization,” Poth said in an e-mail. “They were worried about how the general public would react to an LGBT-targeted event [and] allowed personal beliefs to play a role in that fear, etc.”

Poth said his committee met with a few of the hesitant officials and he thought it had convinced the organization that discriminatory beliefs contradicted with the mission and beliefs of the ACS.

Originally, Poth said he had permission to continue planning the Relay. However, the ACS revisited the idea and decided to not support the event.

“As a committee, we anticipated having this event become extremely successful by the May 21 event date,” Poth said. He added that he was working on the planning process the morning he learned it was canceled.

“It is my hope that either the ACS or another organization doing similar work in the community realizes the importance of brining cancer awareness to all communities at a grassroots level,” Poth said. “Cancer doesn’t discriminate.”

Fortunately, not all is lost. The Hamburger Mary’s Relay Team, which had registered for the LGBT Relay, has decided to participate in the Seminole Heights Relay also scheduled for April 9.

“Their team captain is taking on a great challenge,” Poth said. “The team deserves all the support it can get.”

The change in events has given the team less time to prepare, Poth explained, so he is encouraging anyone who was planning to take part in the May 21 Relay to join the Mary’s team on April 9.

Despite his support for the Seminole Heights Relay, Poth can’t help but feel disappointed in the ACS as a whole.

“I a disappointed but fortunately, the community representative and administration within the Hillsborough County office are excited to have Hamburger Mary’s join their Relay,” he said. “I’m upset about the lack of support we had for our event, but we can still accomplish the ultimate goal of saving lives through supporting the team. http://www.watermarkonline.com/index.php/News/tampa-bay-lgbt-news/4071-American-Cancer-Society-gay-relay-for-Pinellas-county.html