Annual Stephen C. Smith Memorial Regatta in need of auction items

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By: Ben Kaplan
March 21, 2017

SHELL POINT BEACH, Fla. (WCTV) -- Big Bend Relay for Life events are right around the corner. They raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in the fight against cancer. But, there's another big event at the end of April that also brings in a lot money for the American Cancer Society. It’s not on the track, but on the water. It's an annual tradition, almost half a century in the running.

How do you quantify commitment? The easiest way, might be time. Three volunteers, Stan Derzypolski, Leah Chapin and Marianne Gengenbach, have spent more than 90 years combined volunteering for the Stephen C. Smith Regatta. They'll all tell you, it's time very well spent.

"As we're fighting this battle, we're winning a little, but we still have a huge mountain to climb," longtime volunteer and ACS liaison Leah Chapin says.

"It's something that when you get touched by it, you just keep trying to fight it, one way or another," longtime volunteer Stan Derzypolski adds.

Their opponent, cancer.

Stephen C. Smith was a local sailor who lost his life to leukemia when he was just 29 years old.

"He was a sailor who had incredible sportsmanship both on and off the water," Regatta Foundation Member Marianne Gengenbach says.

One weekend a year, soon to be 44 years running, boats take to the water off Shell Point Beach in Smith's honor to defeat the disease that took his life, and affects so many others.

"Every year, when we come, there's one or two more people to add to that list of folks who have perhaps succumbed, or who have had that battle and won in the past 12 months. So, the list grows and we just keep coming back and we have that many more names to fight for," Gengenbach says.

Stan Derzypolsky has put almost 40 years in, beating skin cancer twice in that time.

"I always kid around, I had a $3,000 nose job, but it didn't make me look any better," Derzypolski jokes.

He, one of so many volunteers helping raise almost half a million dollars so that ACS can aid others in their fight.

"This event has brought in money that stays local, and when I mean local, that's Wakulla, Leon, Gadsden, Madison, Taylor," Chapin says.

It's more than just a fundraiser. It's become a staple, a part of life for the people involved.

"It's how I met my husband, it's true," Chapin recalls.

"I just think it's one of the best causes I could do some work for," Gengenbach says.

A wonderful weekend on the water, trying to stop cancer from robbing anyone else of their precious time.

The 44th Annual Stephen C. Smith Memorial Regatta is Friday, April 28th through Sunday the 30th. The big moneymaker is the auction on Sunday. The foundation is in need of items to auction off, everything from boats, to jewelry, to restaurant gift cards. Go to www.smithregatta.com and click on 'Auction' for more information.