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Surpasses Goal - Relay Tops $67,000
Surpassing its monetary goal, Escalon's second Relay For Life benefited from much better weather this year, with the crowd turning out and teams bringing in the money to go over $67,000 for the event.

The goal set for Escalon by the American Cancer Society was $53,000 after the first year, a rain-soaked Relay, brought in some $50,000 last year.

Participants cheered and applauded at Sunday morning's closing ceremonies when chair Amie Ney Conde announced the total, with the amount listed at $67,089.

Leading teams in terms of fundraising were Walking for Birthdays with $7,636; Nuts for Life at $7,425 and D'Bonis, at $7,309.

There were some 20 teams setting up camp at the Escalon High School football field for the 24 hours of Relay, kicking off at 8:30 a.m. Saturday with opening ceremonies and then the first Survivor and Caregiver lap officially starting the walking portion of the event at 9 a.m.

Activities continued throughout the day on Saturday, with a variety of entertainment, special events, fundraising games, food and beverages for sale, opportunity drawings by teams and a coordinated early evening balloon release by team Fight For a Cure.

New teams were also key to the success, with the Escalon High School Relay For Life team members recognized for bringing in $3,148 in their first year of participation. Escalon Firefighters - Extinguishing Cancer - got the nod as the 'Rookie of the Year' team as they participated in almost every special event throughout the day and also came up with some of their own 'theme' laps to entertain the crowd.

Top individual fundraiser was Conde, bringing in $2,200 for the fight against cancer, with Bel Castro second at $1,925 and Andrea McCoy in third at $1,441.

Cougar Town team had the best 'Fight Back' message to educate the public about cancer, D'Boni's was a repeat winner for the Best Decorated campsite and Fight For a Cure was judged Most Spirited.

Along the way, walkers circled the track, joined occasionally by runners making their way around the quarter-mile oval, and the opening ceremonies featured remarks by two-time cancer survivor (skin and breast cancer) Lee McNinch, who urged everyone to continue the fight.

"I'm hoping to find a cure for this," she said. "You hit roadblocks, but you just have to keep going.

"If we all work together, we can get this licked."

The Survivor banner was carried by a trio of survivors, who took the first ceremonial lap joined by their caregivers, with other team members then joining in.

From the Lions Club serving up breakfast on Saturday morning for participants to the Escalon Sunrise Rotary bringing in dinner for survivors on Saturday night, there were contributions from throughout the community. Lupi Herrera provided low cost haircuts for several hours at the event, with all the hair going to Locks of Love and a total of seven feet, nine inches (93 inches) donated to the cause.

First up in the chair was Escalon High incoming senior Alexis Guerra, who had 14 inches to donate and inadvertently inspired some schoolmates to donate as well.

"I think it's awesome," said her dad, Jeff. "It was all on her own, she decided this. It's good. It's really good."

Other donors included Steve Santos, who had some 17 inches of hair to donate and left the event sporting a new Mohawk hairdo. Alexis Fisher donated 10 inches and said it brought tears to her eyes when she learned that cancer patients who go bald from treatment can be buoyed by the donation of real hair that is fashioned for them, helping their emotional well-being.

Escalon Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Joel Johannsen, walking as a member of the Rotary team, did eight miles around the track.

"I figured I would do two miles for each of them," he said of four female relatives - his mom, sister, mother-in-law and aunt ‑ who have all battled breast cancer. "If they can go through what they had to, I can walk two miles for each."

An afternoon fashion show put together by the local Bedazzled boutique was a hit, sack races and frozen T-shirt contests were enjoyed and local musicians provided some live music for walkers.

Mom Christina DaSilva had three-day-old Elijah on the track for a brief visit, as the two stopped in to check on their Fight For a Cure team.

Survivors Steve Britt and Barbara Werner were enjoying dinner, Britt with his wife and caregiver Judy by his side.

"I love it," Steve Britt said of the event. "It's very uplifting, it's awesome and I can't believe the love and care. I'm going to put my own team together."

The evening luminaria ceremony included remarks from survivor Josh Huebner, who praised the caregivers for what they go through helping the cancer patients. Handheld candles helped light the ceremony, with a video of cancer survivors and those lost to the disease then shown, put together by committee member Megan McNinch. Luminaria bags lit the way throughout the night as walkers continued to circle the track.

Most teams had at least one cancer survivor among their members, and the entire weekend was dedicated to celebrating lives saved through research and treatment, remembering those lost and fighting back to raise money and find a cure.

"You guys did awesome," Conde told the crowd at closing ceremonies, noting the community and team members again went above and beyond to achieve - and surpass - the goal.