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Relay For Life Is In Preparation
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Survivors of cancer - those who have fought the dreaded disease and won - will once again hold their banner high, wear their purple shirts and march around the track while being showered with gifts at each campsite during the start of Riverbank's Relay For Life.

That will follow the 8:30 a.m. opening ceremony on Saturday, April 30 at the high school football stadium when event chairperson Melissa Arata will introduce Stanislaus County Supervisor Bill O'Brien and Riverbank Mayor Virginia Madueno to give the welcome.

Caregivers will follow the officials' speeches in making a lap of their own at 9:30 a.m. as the 24-hour event gets under way.

Among the entertainment, the local Sammy Leverone Band will take the stage from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and Shelley Streeter performs while team captains also circle the track at 11:30 a.m. and lunch is served from noon until 1 p.m.

Brothers & Sisters will provide entertainment from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Rock Lobster follows them from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

For another high spot of the event, the Luminaria Ceremony is planned at 8 p.m., and participants can buy their bags in the designated tent at any time after 9:30 a.m. for placement around the track.

"You don't have to be on a team. Anyone can get a bag and place it around the track in memory of a cancer victim or (in honor of a) survivor," said Arata.

Lit by candles in a paper bag bearing handwritten sentiments by family and friends, the glowing luminaria are placed around the track and light the way of walkers and runners throughout the night.

Of the 16 teams who will keep treading that track until next morning the new ones include Angels Among Us, Chuck Norris Kills Cancer, Team Foundation of Life, Team Hope and Xtreme Team.

Back again from last year are Curves Purple Panthers, Keep on Trucking With Heidi's Pit Crew, Kicking for a Cure (Karate for Kids) Rotary Walkettes (Riverbank Rotary), Take Action (City of Riverbank), Target Bulls Eyes (Target), Bank of America, (two teams), Team Chase and Team Galaxy (Galaxy Theatre).

Team Chase is named in honor of Arata's nephew Chase who was diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer at the age of 18 months and died last year.

Following last year's pattern, the whole event will wrap up at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, May 1 with final addresses.

Arata recalled last year's Relay was hit toward nightfall by spatters of rain and a gusty wind that threatened to blow down tents.

"We stuck it out and showed what kind of people go out there," said Arata. "The wind and the storm did not stop us from doing what we came to do; to help people with cancer."

Arata heads a list of organizers that include Carmen Hawkins, Ireeta Morris, Karen Bickford, Laurie Taylor, Nate Benninger, Jill Vieira, Ilda Saldana, Kori Hawkins, Linda Goodman and Robin Lust.

Oakdale just completed its Relay For Life, April 16 and 17, while Escalon is still in the planning stages for that event, June 4 and 5.