With 49 teams registered – and the majority of them setting up on site – the Relay For Life of Greater Stanislaus County surged past the $110,000 fundraising mark over the weekend.
The $125,000 goal is in reach, as officials said some sponsorship money is still coming in and participants can continue fundraising for the next few weeks before the official ‘close out’ of the fundraising year.
Hosted for the second year at John Thurman Field in Modesto, the 24-hour Relay brought together those who previously participated in the Oakdale, Modesto and Turlock events, combining for the one large, regional Relay For Life. Oakdale, Riverbank and Escalon were all represented in addition to teams and participants from the larger Modesto and Turlock communities. Relay is the signature fundraising event for the American Cancer Society.
Teams set up campsites for the duration of the 24-hour event, which kicked off with the Opening Ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 9 a.m. and ran through the Closing Ceremony on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 9 a.m.
Along the way, there was entertainment, competitions, fun activities for kids of all ages, the popular Ms. Relay contest, food, a special Luminaria Ceremony and more.
A proclamation for the Relay was issued by the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors and presented during the Opening Ceremony by Supervisor Terry Withrow, who serves as the board chair.
Firefighters from Modesto Fire Department also attended and were able to place medals around the necks of the cancer survivors attending and walking the inaugural lap around the track.
ConAgra Foods of Oakdale, along with being the presenting sponsor for this year, also had an active team and is leading the way in fundraising, with a total of $15,973 as of press time. There were 344 participants registered this year and many more people that came to check out the festivities, with all activities situated on the baseball diamond where the Modesto Nuts make their home.
The overall fundraising amount as of Oct. 11 was just over $110,200 and more is expected to come in.
Guest speaker for the Opening Ceremony was Oakdale resident Cheryl Brunk, a former American Cancer Society staff member who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and is in treatment.
“On July 20, 2022 I heard those words: You have cancer,” Brunk related. “That was weird; I was always the one on the sidelines helping others and now it’s me. But I have to say, it’s early detection that’s going to save my life.”
She advocated for screening mammograms and said she has already been through a couple of surgeries, along with being a few radiation treatments in with more than a dozen still to go.
“I thank all of you for what you’ve done in the past and for what you’re doing today and beyond,” she told the team members assembled for the Saturday morning ceremony. “Because of what you did years ago, I’m a survivor.”
Cancer survivors attending start off the Relay with the first lap, many teams lining the track to blow bubbles and cheer as the survivors go past. Then it is on to team members taking their turn, with a representative from each team on the track at all times as a reminder that ‘cancer never sleeps.’
The only exception to that is during the evening luminaria ceremony, with a video featuring photos of those who have lost the battle and those still fighting, accompanied by special music. Lighted luminaria bags also line the track throughout the night.
After the video, bagpipe player Phil McGill did a solitary lap around the track playing ‘Amazing Grace’ with all attendees then joining in to follow him for a second lap.
Throughout the day and into the night, there were theme laps, contests, opportunity to support other teams by purchasing raffle tickets, merchandise, food and more.
Along with ConAgra receiving the Top Fundraising Team perpetual trophy, presented at the Sunday morning Closing Ceremony, the Meet The Flockers team was announced as the winner of the Nelson Sayre award for team participation.
There was also a classic car show on Saturday and, to go along with this year’s ‘Grease’ theme, a showing of the movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, played on the Jumbotron at midnight. The movie was all the more poignant this year, as Newton-John passed away from breast cancer in August after battling the disease since 1992.