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Escalon Team Leads Way In Fundraising For Relay
Cancer survivors, including Nuts For Life team member Delores Grabow, at far right with banner, officially begin the 2019 Relay For Life, with team members blowing bubbles as they pass by the booths. Marg Jackson/The Times

Fundraising figures show more than $77,000 was raised in the 2019 Relay For Life staged at Oakdale High School on Saturday, April 27.

The combined Oakdale-Escalon-Riverbank-Waterford event drew participants from those communities for the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraising event and the top earning team was Escalon’s Nuts For Life, with over $15,000 brought in. Second spot went to ConAgra, over $12,500 raised and the MASH 4144 team, sponsored by Oak Valley Hospital District, brought in nearly $7,900.

The day featured bright sunshine and a steady breeze, with temperatures peaking in the low to mid-80s.

Teams gathered for opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. Saturday on the soccer fields at Oakdale High, with a welcome by Oakdale Mayor J.R. McCarty, the presentation of the colors by the Escalon American Legion Post 263, the singing of the National Anthem and remarks by three-time cancer survivor Melody Crandell of Oakdale. She told the crowd to keep up the fight, with more money and more research helping to, hopefully, one day find a cure. Crandell had her first bout with cancer 53 years ago.

El Portal Middle School student Faith Reyes, 12, a cancer survivor, was part of the Nuts For Life team, along with her twin sister Destiny – who donated her hair for Locks of Love at the event – as well as their mom, Tonia.

The traditional Survivor Lap officially began the day of circling the track, with caregivers joining in, followed by team members.

Teams had everything to eat and drink from nachos to fruit cooler drinks, chicken on a stick, horchata, sno cones, almonds and walnuts, and more. There were also a number of teams with opportunity drawings, from gift baskets to concert tickets, artwork to gardening supplies.

Throughout the day, a number of theme laps encouraged walkers to don superhero gear, glow sticks and the overall theme this year was Through The Decades, with many booths featuring decorations from different eras.

The Order of the Eastern Star team from Escallonia Chapter #447 fired up the sno-cone machine, helping keep those walking their laps around the track cool during the heat of the day.

The Ball Metalpack team, headed up by Matt and Jo Harris, led the coordinated balloon release in the early evening, with participants able to write messages to loved ones and send them off in the breeze.

The Survivor/Caregiver tent was busy all day as well, with craft projects, games, food and fun for the honored guests at the event.

This year’s Relay For Life ran from 9 a.m. to midnight, a change from past years when it has been staged for the full 24 hours. Members of the Oakdale Lions Club, who have in the past put on breakfast both days for participants, this year offered up a lunch on Saturday afternoon instead.

Contestants in the Ms. Relay pageant also entertained the crowd with their impromptu fashion show and tackling the pageant questions. Chocolate Bar, Kiki and Rose all had their supporters but it was Chocolate Bar who earned the title for the 2019 pageant.

The evening luminaria ceremony, complete with bagpipe player, also featured the placing of the luminaria bags around the track to light the way in the evening hours for walkers.

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One of the luminaria bags lining the track at Relay was placed there in memory of Mike Backovich, a longtime teacher and coach at Escalon High School. Marg Jackson/The Times
Twin 12-year-old sisters Destiny, left, and Faith Reyes of Escalon were among those taking part in the Saturday, April 27 Relay For Life. Destiny donated her hair to Locks of Love in honor of Faith, a cancer survivor. Marg Jackson/The Times