Last weekend, volunteers and staff from the Emerald Coast Unit of the American Cancer Society (ACS) in Northwest Florida held the South Walton Relay for Life event in Grand Boulevard at Sandestin.

“Rick Blontz, affectionately known as Papa Smurf, achieved an amazing milestone by hitting the 6,000 mile mark walking at our Relay,” said South Walton Relay Chair Valerie Brunson. “He is the perfect example of why we gather together in the fight against cancer with the American Cancer Society.”

Blontz, a 63-year-old resident of Freeport, is a survivor of five different types of cancer. Over the past 18 years, he has walked in numerous Relay for Life events in Northwest Florida decked out in his purple camouflage walking attire and a pedometer to track his progress. He will continue to walk in the fight against cancer as long as he can.

Relay For Life is the American Cancer Society’s signature event that honors cancer survivors, remembers those who have lost their battle, and offers a night and day for the community to come together by fighting back and raising funds for research, patient services and patient advocacy programs.

Teams of friends, family and co-workers camp out at their local high schools or fairgrounds and take turns walking or running around a track because cancer never sleeps and for one night, neither do the Relayers. One in every 100 Americans participates in one of the 5,000 Relay For Life events across the globe, comprising the world’s largest movement to end cancer.

The South Walton Relay team will host two more fund-raising events. First with a “Bark For Life” on June 15, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin. Attendees can bring their dogs to participate in costume contests and strut their stuff.  Second, Santa Rosa Beach Golf & Country Club will host a Charity Golf Tournament on July 21 to benefit the Relay. For details on these upcoming events, email Valerie Brunson at, or call 850-687-0283.

The Emerald Coast Unit of the American Cancer Society operates with more than 700 volunteers in Okaloosa, Walton and Holmes counties with the support of 5 staff members. For further information on the American Cancer Society and its variety of patient service and fundraising events available in your area, please call 1-800-227-2345 or visit .