Making a positive return to the campus of Riverbank High School, teams made their way around the track for a 24-hour period over the weekend, as the Riverbank Relay For Life was staged.
Chairperson Lisa Alba said the event was a success, many people noting that they liked the Relay returning to the school and, even though it was a hot Saturday and Sunday, participants were glad they were there.
Alba also said an article in The News on June 4, just a few days before Relay, generated a new team and prompted some people to come out to the school to see what it was about. That, she added, is also positive and bodes well for the future of the event in the City of Action.
“We had a lot of family support, a lot of family teams out here this year,” Alba said. “Next year, I want to get more of the business community involved too.”
Like in all American Cancer Society relays, there were stories of hope, survival, courage, loss, determination and ultimately, triumph.
Special honoree Sunday morning was 11-year-old Jerry Martinez, who had his own team this year, and is an 8-year survivor of liver cancer. His aunt, Luz Lara, pledged to stay on the track the full 24 hours in honor of his fighting spirit and she succeeded, covering the mileage equivalent to two marathons.
“Her family, they surrounded her and carried her for the final lap,” Alba said of the moving close to the event.
Survivors are special guests at Relay For Life and Riverbank was no different, with a variety of activities provided.
“We also were able to serve them breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Alba said.
They also helped start the Relay off, walking the Survivor Lap as part of opening ceremonies on Saturday morning, June 7.
Among the new teams this year, the Riverbank Sports Booster Club, with cross country and track and field coach Monte Wood walking some laps on Saturday with incoming RHS juniors Michael Rodriguez and Diego Ruiz.
“This is our first year but I have wanted to do it, I had it in my head,” Wood said. “It would be a good time for team bonding, we can walk and run.”
And raise money in the fight against cancer as well, he said, with 15 to 20 members joining the team. Ruiz said he has been involved before, having lost his grandmother to cancer.
Other teams included Fight Like a Girl, Forever Arleen, St. Frances of Rome and more. There were special speakers at opening ceremonies, the evening luminaria ceremony and plenty of food, beverages and merchandise offered by teams for their onsite fundraising.
“We had 16 teams and three people that said they want to be team captains next year, so that will be more teams,” Alba said. “Our goal was to raise $12,000 and we will probably net over $15,000.”
The fundraising year for Relay For Life continues through Aug. 31, so money for 2014 can be collected until then.
“We had a really good time,” Alba added. “We probably had 40 survivors during the day and people liked it back at the high school.”