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Riverbank Teen Leads Big Valley Relay Team
Big Valley Christian High School team member Mari Boren, left, a senior, goes over the evening walking schedule with team captain and fellow senior Megan Ibanez of Riverbank. The two were part of the Big Valley team that helped raise over $150,000 this year at the Relay For Life of Oakdale. Marg Jackson/The News

Students from Big Valley Christian High School in Modesto were out in force once again for the weekend Relay For Life of Oakdale, with Riverbank teen Megan Ibanez serving as team captain. It’s a role she has played the past few years, after taking over the team from her older brother when he graduated. She served as co-captain with him, then took the lead.

For the senior, Relay is just a part of life, and something she has enjoyed doing throughout her school years, from elementary through high school.

“This is my ninth year, Jacob (brother) was our first team captain and he graduated in 2011,” she explained.

The Big Valley team began when the students rallied behind a teacher, Mrs. Johnson, who was battling cancer. They were first known as “Johnson’s Warriors” and at one time had both a high school team and a younger age team. This year, the high school team had multiple members, staying on for the full 24 hours and participating in a number of the special events hosted at Relay, from a 3:30 a.m. ‘chicken dance’ lap around the track to welcoming survivors and sharing memories of loved ones lost during the evening luminaria ceremony.

Mari Boren, also a senior at Big Valley, was back with the team for another year.

“Many times,” she said when asked how many years she had been involved with the event. “I like being able to be involved, to do something to help.

“My aunt had cancer so it’s a personal thing.”

Relay For Life has personal meaning for the majority of participants, who have had their lives touched by cancer in some way, whether it was seeing a friend or relative battle the disease or having their own fight against it.

Special recognition was given this year to the Big Valley team for its years of participation in the Oakdale event.

Both Ibanez and Boren will be off at college next year, but agreed they hope a Big Valley team will continue to be part of Oakdale’s Relay For Life.

Riverbank will host its Relay starting at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 8 at Cardozo Middle School, with 11 teams signed up to date and the Escalon Relay For Life is scheduled for an 8:30 a.m. start time on Saturday, June 22 and currently has 17 teams registered.

Oakdale’s event raised over $153,000 for the American Cancer Society to aid cancer patients and their families through research, education, advocacy and patient services.