Despite triple digit heat that peaked at 108 degrees during the afternoon, The American Cancer Society hosted a Relay For Life of Riverbank event on Saturday, June 8 at Cardozo Middle School in Riverbank. Opening ceremonies started at 8:30 a.m. Saturday to bring everyone together to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer and the 24-hour event ran into Sunday, June 9.
First time event chair Vickie Stone had several duties and responsibilities.
“I learned a lot,” expressed Stone. “It was worth every bit.”
The event was a success even though they fell short of the monetary goal that was set by the American Cancer Society. They had over 100 people participate in their event and 14 different teams, both a much larger number than the 2012 relay. They also raised over $12,000 through this year’s Relay For Life, which was more than they did last year as well. Final totals won’t be known, however, until all the bills are paid and money for this year’s event can be turned in until the end of August.
The relay event is filled with several different ceremonies and activities. Oakdale resident Jeff Hood gave a speech and stated that he considers himself a floater, noting that he attends Relay events in the area to show his support for the cause. Hood started participating in Relay 11 years ago in Oakdale.
“I see more people wearing purple shirts than when I first started,” said Hood.
Any person wearing a purple shirt symbolizes a cancer survivor. The cancer survivors walk a Survivor’s Lap at 9 a.m. to music while spectators applaud and cheer. The lap is to celebrate them and winning the fight against cancer.
“The survivors are so appreciative of everything we do for them and for the event,” said Stone. “One of them thanked me and gave me a big hug. That made it all worth it to me.”
Raquel Castro is a cancer survivor that battled thyroid cancer for 16 years and breast cancer for six. She gave a speech during the opening ceremonies and is part of a Relay team out of Manteca, which also brought its team to Riverbank to take part.
“Cancer is everywhere, it affects everyone in one way or another,” said Castro. “It is worth fighting against.”
The cancer survivors also received a medal after they completed the opening lap. Longtime Riverbank residents Richard Martinez and cancer survivor Hope Serrano grabbed a seat in the shade after the lap.
“Everybody should get involved because you never know when it’s going to happen to you,” said Serrano.
“Make sure you keep praying,” added Martinez.
Team Anita’s Angels had a booth set up filled with goodies. They were serving breakfast and had lunch items and snacks available ranging from hot dogs, chips, super nachos, sno cones, candy and cupcakes.
Jakkie Arellano from Manteca brought her ‘Capture Life’s Moments’ booth to the Riverbank Relay to show their support. The side of their booth had a nice background where you could have your picture taken with a Polaroid and then you could decorate the print for a small fee.
The Warriors for Juan team had a booth set up where you could create your own necklace with beads, getting a bead for each lap completed around the track during the event. The Cruising for a Cure team had a variety of items available like bracelets, crocheted headbands, candy, cake pops, neck coolers, and chips and salsa. Elizabeth Vigil was the team captain, Juan Vigil was her uncle who passed away after battling lymphoma. She said though she decided to get involved late in the game, just about two weeks before the event, she was glad to have a team in honor of her uncle.
American Cancer Society staff partner Vickie Cordoza said the event went well for Riverbank this year and she was pleased that the event drew more teams and participants, who came despite the first major heat wave of the summer season.
She added she was “very optimistic” for the future of relay in the community, given the solid showing over the weekend. Special thanks was given to St. Frances of Rome church, which had two teams on site and provided use of the church for the regular committee and team captain meetings leading up to the event, also hosting a pre-event gathering for survivors.
A popular visitor to the nearby Sno-White Drive In, Elvis arrived early Saturday evening to energize the crowd with some toe tapping music, courtesy of Daryl Daniel.
As the activities, the walking, and the ceremonies continued, the smiles never faded and the warmth didn’t just come from the sun.
“I was extremely pleased with the turnout,” said Stone. “The fulfillment you get, just knowing you touched one person, makes it all worth it.”
News editor Marg Jackson contributed to this report.