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Fun And Fundraising Mark 2018 Relay For Life Effort
Taking time to sign a message on a flower for the Garden of Hope on Saturday morning were Megan McNinch and Jose Cortes. The recently married couple was attending the Relay For Life; McNinch is not only a caregiver for her mom Lee but now a cancer survivor herself. Marg Jackson/The Times

Bringing together teams from four communities, the combined Oakdale Escalon Riverbank Waterford Relay For Life also raised an estimated $74,000 for the American Cancer Society.

The signature fundraising event for ACS, the 2018 Relay For Life was staged on the campus of Oakdale High School, with teams setting up their tents around the soccer fields. Events began with Opening Ceremonies on Saturday morning, May 5 at 9 a.m., featuring some guest speakers, a release of doves and the carrying of a banner by a group of survivors to begin the walking.

The 24-hour team event typically sees at least one member of each team on the track at all times, signifying that cancer never sleeps. There are also special theme laps, contests, musical entertainment and a variety of activities hosted for cancer survivors and their caregivers. This year included a wood heart craft, a garden of hope, painting class and a fiesta dinner in the spirit of Cinco de Mayo.

Several survivors from Escalon made the trip to Oakdale for the day and the Nuts For Life team, under the direction of Suzanne Longstreth and Sandy Bomer, featured members from other teams that had previously been involved in the Escalon relay. This was the first year in many years that all the communities joined together in the effort.

Musician Josh Rosenblum, a favorite at the Escalon relays over the years, returned to the stage this year and brought his popular brand of music to Oakdale, while the Rhythm and Moves dance company of Jaclyn Ortiz also performed in the afternoon and Stanislaus Consolidated firefighters hosted a piñata bashing and handed out gift cards to walkers on the track.

Unique to the Oakdale event, the Ms. Relay contest was hosted and Escalon attendees got to view the guys dressing up as women event, an over the top beauty pageant. Contestants ‘work’ the crowd for cash donations to help them win the coveted title. All the money goes back to the event to benefit ACS.

Jungle Jim was this year’s DJ and also helped raise money by taking song requests – at a dollar a song – and kept the tunes spinning day and night.

Nuts For Life was honored as the top overall fundraising team and was also noted as a ‘Rookie of the Year’ for the combined event.

Event lead Andrea Hernandez said that the teams this year raised over $16,500 in their onsite fundraising alone during the 24 hour period and the overall total so far is $74,000 raised.

“Our little communities are in this for the fight,” Hernandez said.

The Patient Courage Award this year was presented to two-time cancer survivor and Stanislaus Consolidated Battalion Chief Kevin Wise, receiving the honor at the Sunday morning closing ceremonies.