Back to a 24-hour event, the Relay For Life of Greater Stanislaus County saw participants from Oakdale and Riverbank in addition to Modesto, Turlock, Escalon and more.
After not having an in person event in 2020 due to the pandemic, reductions in staffing levels at the American Cancer Society prompted the regionalization of the signature Relay For Life program. Here, the three host cities of Modesto, Oakdale and Turlock – which previously had individual relays – were joined together for one large event. Riverbank and Escalon were included in the Oakdale Relay For Life over the past few years and so continued on to the ‘Greater Stanislaus County’ regional event.
Presenting sponsor for this year’s event, hosted at John Thurman Field in Modesto, was the local ConAgra of Oakdale, while the top fundraising team – Meet the Flockers – is based in Modesto but Team Captain Donna Stephens is an Oakdale resident. Riverbank resident Nancy Peppin was a member of the ‘Flockers’ team and was there to support the effort on Saturday.
Escalon American Legion Post 263 members were called on to present the colors to begin the Relay, with the blessing of the Modesto post. Providing the Opening Ceremony address was longtime Oakdale Leader/Escalon Times/Riverbank News reporter and columnist Teresa Hammond, outlining her own battle with breast cancer and urging everyone to be their own best advocate in dealing with their health care needs.
Survivors, many wearing purple shirts, started the official laps for the Relay, about 9:45 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 9.
Opening Ceremonies began at 9 a.m. Saturday and the event lasted through 9 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 10.
Goal for this year, said American Cancer Society staff partner TJ Johnson, was $100,000.
Much of the fundraising is done prior to the event and, going in on Saturday, the Relay had already brought in around $93,000.
By the time closing ceremonies started, the total had far surpassed the original goal, with more than $125,800 raised.
Helping emcee the event was longtime ‘Voice of the Mustangs’ Pete Simoncini, who presided over the always popular Miss Relay contest. That event features men from the teams dressing up as women and collecting donations to support the Relay cause. This year, with the event in October as opposed to in the spring, a pumpkin carving contest was also part of the fun. The Race to Recovery event featured decorated cars made out of cardboard, there was a newspaper fashion show at 5 a.m., and musical entertainment during the event as well. The Wet Bandidos took the stage on Saturday evening, providing upbeat music for those walking their laps on the track. News editor Marg Jackson also helped emcee the 24-hour event as well.
There were also several special activities designed for cancer survivors, including massages, games with prizes, meals and more in a covered pavilion adjacent to the track.
As of presstime, with donations still coming in, the 2021 Relay For Life of Greater Stanislaus County had raised more than $127,191.