Residents from both Riverbank and Oakdale, in addition to those from other surrounding communities, joined forces for the weekend’s Relay For Life, the signature fundraising event of the American Cancer Society.
Despite some unexpected, heavy rain for a brief period on Saturday night, the Relay went off well and brought in close to $90,000 for the American Cancer Society.
There were teams circling a ‘track’ set up on the soccer fields at Oakdale High School and this year, the Riverbank and Oakdale relays were consolidated, forming a single event.
As always, the Survivor Lap kicked off festivities, stepping off at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 6. They were joined by caregivers, then members of the various teams got on the track to start the 24-hour event. One member from each team is expected to be on the track at all times, signifying that ‘cancer never sleeps.’
Attendees included the husband and wife duo of Charles and Mildred King from Riverbank, both cancer survivors. They were married three years ago – Charles is now 85 and Mildred is 97.
“She’s a Cougar,” Charles said, smiling, as the two made their way around the track for the Survivor Lap, hand in hand. Survivors are honored guests at Relay and a special area for them was set up on site, with an adjoining Caregivers Corner to provide treats for the caregivers as well. A new event for both was a painting class, with step by step instructions provided by Cassidee Dermond, and all attendees able to take home their painting of daffodils.
There were presentations from Look Good, Feel Better designed to provide make-up and hair styling tips for those undergoing chemotherapy, a special Pantene Beautiful Lengths haircutting station to collect donated hair to make wigs for cancer patients, the popular ‘jail’ set up by the In Memory Of Steve team that saw plenty of ‘prisoners’ brought in throughout the day. Musical performances were featured as well and teams had a variety of fundraising activities and merchandise at their individual booths.
The evening luminaria ceremony featured the placing of dedicated luminaria bags honoring those battling the disease and remembering those lost, with tea light candles lit in them. A video was shown and then all participants joined in for a lap around the track, following behind bagpipe player Phil McGill.
Shortly after the luminaria ceremony, the rain came down, forcing many to scamper to their campsites for umbrellas or rain ponchos. The brief storm left chilly evening air behind, but organizers said it didn’t dampen the spirit of Relay participants.
The Auxiliary to Veterans of Foreign Wars post 2922, which has participated in Relays in the past, this year brought several members in to tour the booths and then made donations, writing out checks on site to the teams and campsites that most impressed them.
Spokeswoman Kathy Luckett said teams selected were Ball Corporation, M.A.S.H. 4144, Komonawanacure, Wish Upon A Cure and Stick It To Cancer.
The Oakdale Lions Club provided breakfast for all participants, free of charge, both Saturday and Sunday mornings and the local Café Bliss out of Oakdale served up three different kinds of homemade soup around 12:30 a.m. Sunday, perfect for warming up following the unexpected rainstorm.
At closing ceremonies on Sunday, the Relay Spirit Award went to the Mountain View Church team, Top Youth Individual Fundraiser was Mandi Martinez with $1,155 and Top Individual Fundraiser was Sandra Whiteman with $9,025.
Top Onsite Fundraising team was Komonawanacure, Top Rookie team was ConAgra Brands Fights Cancer, Top Per Capita team was M.A.S.H. 4144 and Top Fundraising team was Anita’s Angels. Michelle Nunn received the Patient Courage Award for her inspirational battle against cancer and the total announced for fundraising was $89,254.
With additional funds anticipated, organizers said they expect the combined Oakdale-Riverbank Relay For Life will top out over the $90,000 mark, making it a definite success.