If you don't know by now that I am deeply involved in Relay For Life, you just haven't read my column, in about, 10 years.
It's something that comes around each year and it used to be just in Oakdale but then later became stand alone events in Riverbank and Escalon as well. The last of the three for this year, Escalon, was staged just a couple of weeks ago. Oakdale was the first of the three this year, back at the end of April, and I had the chance to walk as part of a team, be involved in the 'team development' portion as a committee member and serve as one of the emcees, working alongside the 'Voice of the Mustangs' Pete Simoncini. It's an event that's fun to be a part of and very rewarding, something that I have enjoyed being involved in for years. Riverbank had the distinction of battling through triple digit heat, something like 106 or 108 degrees on the Saturday of their event in early June. Hats off to them; they had their walkers on the track and kept the spirit up throughout the long, hot day. For Escalon, this was the third year. During their inaugural year, it poured. I wore a garbage bag for most of it, as I helped emcee that event and didn't think to pack a rain slicker for the festivities. It doesn't rain in California in June. Except that year. And of course, a little unusual rain around June 24 and 25 this year, before shooting up past the century mark again. Escalon's second year, we escaped the rain but the wind was another story, as pop up tents blew away and the 'fight back' tent – designed to provide information on ways to help prevent cancer and make a difference for those that have it – went sailing up Escalon-Bellota Road on the wings of a particularly strong gust.
This year, it was more of a sedate weather pattern. It certainly heated up on Saturday but not to the point that Riverbank saw. We can handle 93 or 94, especially with the slight breeze that kept our Central Valley air moving about as we circled the track. Once the sun went down, so did the temperature and it was a gorgeous Saturday night into Sunday morning, complete with a full moon and plenty of camaraderie around the track. This year's chairperson, Megan McNinch, is an Escalon High graduate and a person I remember very well, covering her in sports and clubs while she was at EHS. It's gratifying but also a little scary to see 'kids' I wrote about become adults and start making their mark in the world. Either they are growing up too fast or time is just flying past me as I get (much) older. Maybe it's a combination of both.
Regardless, it was a successful 'relay season' for our communities.
I covered the Escalon relay for the paper, with the story and photos in last week's issue, but there's always so much more to tell. There's no way to cover it all, the survivor stories, the guest speakers who inspire us with their testimonies of unyielding battle and the support system that helped sustain them through the fight. In Escalon, each participant gets a candle to hold during the luminaria ceremony, and then we take a group lap around the track to view the lighted luminaria bags. Not everyone walks the track at night, so this is a perfect way to get to see those bags that remember those we lost, celebrate those we still have with us.
My boss suggested (after Oakdale's relay) that I might think about taking a day off either prior to or after the event, as I always seem to be so caught up in everything relay that there's not much time for work. This year, it so happened with Escalon that I had a vacation planned before I knew their relay dates. Happily, it was the weekend before I left. Which gave me almost a full day and a half after getting done with relay on Sunday to put together the week's issue, pack, go over the pertinent animal care information with our bird and cat sitter during our absence and make sure we got to the airport on time for a red eye Monday night flight.
Mission accomplished – except I actually wrote this column (due for publication while I am gone) after I left...just simply ran out of time while I was still in California.
Oh well, where there's a computer, there's a way. Happy July and see you when I get back.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 209-847-3021.