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Combined Regional Event Surpasses $100,000 Goal
Relay For Life
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Cancer survivors carry the banner as they officially start the 2021 Relay For Life of Greater Stanislaus County, which brought Modesto, Oakdale, Turlock and surrounding communities together for the event. Hosted at John Thurman Field in Modesto, the Relay was Oct. 9 and 10, a 24-hour event. Marg Jackson/The Times

Back to a 24-hour event, the Relay For Life of Greater Stanislaus County saw participants from Escalon, Oakdale and Riverbank in addition to Modesto and Turlock.

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.

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.

Among those taking part was Escalon resident Lupe Valeriano, who was part of a team from her workplace, in support of a co-worker currently battling cancer. She was walking laps on the track at various times of the day and also had some family members, including husband Juan and daughter Jackie, join in.

There were also fun contests spread throughout the 24 hours, from the Miss Relay event featuring men from the teams dressing up as women and collecting donations to support the Relay cause; a pumpkin carving contest, the Race to Recovery event featuring decorated cars made out of cardboard, and more.

John Thurman Field in Modesto, home of the Modesto Nuts baseball team, was the site for this year’s event, a venue that the majority of participants were happy with, as it had a dedicated track for walking and plenty of room for teams and activities.

Musical performances were featured throughout the day and evening as well and serving as emcees were Pete Simoncini, longtime ‘Voice of the Mustangs’ at Oakdale High School and Times editor Marg Jackson.

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.

Escalon residents Lupe and Juan Valeriano were on the track Saturday night, Lupe taking part on a team formed in support of a co-worker battling cancer.
Members of the Escalon American Legion Gustafson-Thompson Post 263 presented the colors, standing in front of the stage for the start of the National Anthem as part of the Saturday morning opening ceremonies.
Participants in the 5 a.m. Newspaper Fashion Show contest model the outfits their teammates created for them with newspaper and duct tape; one of the many fun activities put on throughout the 24-hour event.