Relay unites community against cancer
by Glenn Moore
May 23, 2013 | 2395 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Walking for a cure
Cancer survivors walk the first lap to open the 2013 Relay For Life of Tracy at Kimball High School on Saturday, May 18.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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Cancer survivors walked side by side with friends and family as they continued the fight against the disease at the 13th annual Relay For Life of Tracy at Kimball High School Saturday, May 18.

The 24-hour walkathon has teams raise money and walk laps around a track set on a grass field at the back of the campus.

Proceeds are donated to the American Cancer Society.

Relay committee member Renee Riddle watched as teams began to set up booths early Saturday morning, preparing for their overnight stay.

Riddle said 80 teams with more than 800 people signed up for this year’s relay, a drop in numbers from 2012.

“Those of us that are here are not giving up the fight against cancer,” Riddle said. “They know it can be defeated.”

Riddle said donations were still coming in, and as of Monday, May 20, local participants had raised more than $200,150, according to the Tracy Relay for Life website.

The top money-raising team was Taylor Farms of Tracy, whose 15 members collected more than $35,000.

Team captain Robin Lopez, 53, said it was the ninth year Taylor Farms had fielded a team for the relay — a cause close to her heart.

“I started my team in honor of my father, who was fighting prostate cancer,” Lopez said.

Her father, Bob Lemmerman, died of pancreatic cancer three years ago, just weeks before the 2010 relay.

“That was a tough relay, but we’re still doing it,” Lopez said. “Everyone, every team has a story — we keep each other going.”

Cancer survivors dressed in purple shirts opened the Relay For Life by walking the first lap around the bumpy grass field.

The path wound around the field between rows of team booths and tents.

Teams sponsored fundraisers that included raffles for San Francisco Giants game tickets and a game dubbed bra pong, which challenged contestants to bounce a ball into any of a dozen bra cups tacked to a wall.

Hairstylists from Mira Bella Salon wielded scissors, cutting hair for Locks of Love, a charity that makes and gives away wigs for poor children with medical hair loss.

Teams had at least person walking the track every hour starting at 10 a.m. Saturday through Sunday morning.

Breast cancer survivor Martha Santillam, 48, was walking in her first Relay For Life in Tracy, though she has participated in Stockton in the past.

“For me, it’s very important,” Santillam said. “They give me more support to keep going.”

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010, she still has two years to go before her five-year anniversary, when she will be considered cured.

“My life changed,” she said. “I see the other survivors and I keep motivated. They call me a survivor, but for me it will be when my remission is over.

Many relay participants carried signs on the track remembering friends and family in the fight against cancer.

A group from Team Lovelace carried a sign celebrating a friend with cervical cancer.

Ryan Mathis, Max Weiner, Chris Juran and Forrest Whyte wore blue as they held the sign over their heads.

“I think it’s special,” Weiner said. “For 24 hours, the community and yourself keep focused on one thing.”

He said cancer patients and survivors can see that they are not alone among all the other survivors, caregivers and friends gathered for the relay.

Weiner said their friend has been struggling with the side effects of her cancer treatment, and the relay helped put things into perspective.

“You can see what they are going through and try to put yourself in their shoes,” he said.

Relay For Life activities continued into the night. During a 9 p.m. luminaria ceremony, paper bags decorated with the names of survivors and people who have died of cancer lit the track.

The relay for life concluded Sunday, May 19, with all the participants joining together to walk the final lap.

Watching a group of children circle the track Saturday, Lopez, of Taylor Farms, said the young people of the community inspire her to walk.

“We keep doing it because we believe in a cure,” she said. “It’s too late for my dad, but we can still find a cure in time for the children.”

• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or gmoore@tracypress.com.
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