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Escalon Residents Join In Oakdale Relay
With just about six weeks left to go before Escalon puts on its first Relay For Life, many of those planning to take part in that June 4 and 5 event also were on hand for the 10th annual Oakdale Relay For Life this past weekend.

Staged at Oakdale High School on the JV and varsity soccer fields, the 24-hour team event against cancer drew hundreds of people to the cause. Among them were several from Escalon, including Jeff Fernandes, who served as the sound man and handled all the music and main stage microphones, lighting and more.

Fernandes is filling the major role of Relay For Life Chairperson in Escalon and members of the various committees that will help put on the June event were also on hand to observe and get a firsthand look at how the event plays out.

The Racing for a Cure team that features the Keyser family out of Escalon had an award winner in Dan Keyser, among the top fundraising individuals for the entire event. Oakdale's Relay raised more than $176,000 with about five dozen teams participating. Survivor Liz Lee attended with her husband Carey, walking and working with a team, and enjoying the festivities at the 'Survivor Tent' where survivors and their caregivers were treated to dinner, special music and ceremonies, including placing stones with handwritten messages on them in a reflecting pool.

"I wouldn't miss it," Lee said, noting that she enjoys the Oakdale event every year and is also looking forward to being involved in Escalon's inaugural Relay.

The American Cancer Society utilizes the 24-hour Relay For life as its signature fundraising event and proceeds go toward patient services, research, education and advocacy.

There is a 'Fight Back' portion that gives attendees the chance to learn more about how to be proactive in seeking legislation, how to lower their own cancer risk and how to be an advocate for cancer patients.

Opening ceremonies and a 'Survivor Lap' kicked off the event at Oakdale High on Saturday morning and the day's festivities also included a variety of music, with the Escalon-based Tailights on stage to perform a brief set in the early afternoon and then the headline show on Saturday evening following the luminaria ceremony.

"Anything I can do to help be a part of this whole thing," lead man Mark Macsenti said of taking part in Relay. "We're just glad to be here."

The evening luminaria ceremony, accompanied by a slide show of those who have battled cancer, also included the playing of Amazing Grace by bagpipe player Phil McGill and saw the lighting of the bags that circled the track, to light the way for walkers during the overnight hours.

Names on the bags are for those who have survived, along with those whose lives were cut short by the disease and one bag, found along the track, was dedicated in memory of Terry Brumley, who recently lost her battle with cancer. The longtime local schoolteacher passed away on March 15.

Members of the Escalon Relay For Life committee meet the last Wednesday of each month, with the next session set for April 27 at the Escalon Community Ambulance Station on Ullrey Avenue.

Committee members meet at 6:30 p.m. and team captains at 7:30 p.m. and anyone interested in being involved can contact Fernandes at 595-4192.