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Reflections On Relay
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After all the months of build up, final weeks of preparation, last minute tending to details ... Relay for Life 2009 is in the books.

Oakdale's event, anyway, which draws in participants from Oakdale, Riverbank, Escalon and the surrounding communities of Knights Ferry, Waterford, Valley Home and more. Riverbank's third annual Relay for Life is still to come, May 30 and 31, though some Riverbank residents were on teams taking part in the Oakdale event on April 25 and 26.

Like we have for the past several years, The Oakdale Leader (Escalon Times/Riverbank News) had a team at the event and many of us on the team did double duty by also serving on or chairing various committees for the Relay.

This year was especially fun for me, spending time center stage. After working the last four years (two as co-chair and two as chairperson) with Mission Delivery, it was time for a change. Mission Delivery is the educational part of Relay, letting people know - through activities, games and informational displays - what the American Cancer Society is and what it does for people. My daughter suggested doing something else this year, possibly hosting a fun Kids Kamp (so she could help youngsters with their various arts and crafts projects) or maybe entertainment, so we could be on stage.

But it was actually co-worker Teresa Hammond (who always seems to get me involved in things) that officially 'volunteered' me to serve as the Entertainment Chairperson, since her husband Kelly was rotating out after his two years of service.

It would be a piece of cake, she said, what with my background in radio. At first nervous about it, I did like the idea of getting back on the mic but was unsure about coordinating all the various acts and contests during the day and night. Teresa gave me 'the book' that is handed down from chairperson to chairperson, with a voluminous amount of notes, activity suggestions, schedules and the like, which Kelly had worked off the previous two years. All I had to do was follow the framework set by past Entertainment chairs and line up some entertaining activities and musical performers.

It also gave me the chance to work with Oakdale High School teacher and sports commentator Pete Simoncini, who has served as the emcee of the event for many years. Together, we fell into an easy, compatible banter that sounded more like we were doing a morning radio show than a Relay. But it worked and we called ourselves "KRFL - Radio Relay" for the better part of 24 hours. We also thoroughly enjoyed working with our DJ, Bob Eden of Otter Bob Productions, who serves as the Entertainment chair for the Riverbank Relay.

Throughout the day and night, there were things going on. Our new 'Dancing With a Survivor' was enjoyed by the couples dancing and the audience. There was music from Oakdale's Don Glor, who was 'volunteered' by his wife, Val Vesia-Glor of The Learning Tree, to give his first public performance as a solo artist at Relay. He did wonderful, as did our returning band, Howard Kendig & Co., which played long after the Saturday evening luminaria ceremony and sparked more than one call to the local police regarding the 'noise.'

Relay is one of those events you really should experience at least once. Chances are, you'll go back again because you will find a reason to join in the fight against cancer. We use the 'Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back' slogan and that's truly what the 24-hour period includes. It is a Celebration of those who have defeated their greatest foe, cancer, and are there to join in with us for the fun, festivities and fundraising. It is a time when we Remember those we have lost to the disease - and who today hasn't lost a loved one to cancer? I have, more than one, and I'll bet you have, too. Plus, Relay gives us a very tangible way to Fight Back. The money we raise, by walking around that track, buying those sno cones or glow sticks that teams are selling, or taking a chance on an 'opportunity drawing' ... all that money helps to fund research and continue the education and support programs for those with cancer.

There are so many people to thank that there's no way to do it in a column. I went out seeking donations for various activities - above and beyond those service clubs and individuals who donated money as pledges to my daughter and I for walking on the track as part of our Leadin' Ladies & Gents newspaper team - and more often than not was granted my wish, whether it was for a pie, a cake, a roll of duct tape or a gift certificate. Some of the items were used as prizes for the competitions; others were needed for actually running those events, but they were all put to good use and greatly appreciated.

Relay, each year, results in new memories and unforgettable moments. From this year, I will remember many things; the honesty of young people turning in money they found on the track, the energy of those who came to try their voices in Midnight Karaoke, the 'I-don't-know-how-to-ask-this' sheepishness of the young guy who came looking for the jeans he left behind at the stage after taking part in the newspaper fashion show at 1:30 a.m., and the sheer enjoyment of having microphone in hand and doing the 'play-by-play' for Relay 2009.

But more than anything else - and the thing that keeps me coming back, year after year - I will remember the courage, determination and pride of those that walk the track to lead us in our first and last lap of the Relay for Life. The purple shirts that inspire us all. Our survivors. They are what Relay is all about. They are why we need to keep fighting the fight. So they are there with us again next year.

Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times and The Oakdale Leader and assistant editor for The Riverbank News. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.