Relaying hope in the battle against cancer

Rocklin Relay for Life sets goal of raising $75,000 for cancer research
By: Amanda Calzada, Placer Herald Correspondent
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One million starts with one. Every step of those attending Rocklin’s 10th annual Relay for Life last weekend brought the cure to cancer closer to the finish line for the 1.3 million Americans who battle the disease each year. The signature event of the American Cancer Society opened on Saturday with a victory lap walked by more than 127 cancer survivors. While the threat of lightning was scary, the possibility of rain excited the committee members. As it turned out, the high temperatures were the most threatening condition. The emcee constantly reminded participants to apply sunscreen and keep hydrated. At dusk, about 800 white paper bags, glowing from a candle’s light and decorated with names, photos or drawings to celebrate the life of the individual, were placed around the track at Granite Oaks Middle School. “The candle represents the light of hope that lives in the hearts of all of us,” explained volunteer Connie Wiedel. Signaled by the music of bagpipes, Relay for Life participants walked a lap silence in tribute to those who have either lost their battle with cancer or are continuing to fight. “It is very comforting for my family and I to see the time, effort, and care that our community puts into battling cancer. When we attend Relay for Life, we know that everyone there can either relate to what we have gone through or cares about a cause that is very dear to us,” said Isabel Lopez, whose mother, Sonia Lopez, passed away from breast cancer in February. Individuals and teams collected pledges per lap prior to the overnight event. The idea was to have a team member circling the track for the entire event. The three teams raising the most money were Crazy for the Cure, Sierra Rack Pack, and Rays of Life. Top individual fundraisers were Pamela Salvidar, Shannon Maveety, and Darcy Wharton. Over the past decade, Relay For Life of Rocklin has collected more than $750,000. Organizers of this year’s event had set a goal of raising $75,000. Some teams raised money on the site through creative booths that sold items ranging from jewelry to Scottish tea cookies to henna tattoos. Vendors like Icing on the Cupcake were also on hand. One of the important elements of the event is the Fight Back tent, said Christina Breiner, a member of the volunteer planning committee. Information in the tent advocates healthy lifestyles and shows supporters where their money goes, including free services offered by the American Cancer Society. Among the free services offered is a program where volunteers drive cancer patients to medical appointments. Last year, funds raised during Relay for Life of Rocklin provided transportation reimbursement for 213 cancer patients. The 2010 funds also provided college scholarships to 12 young survivors as well as gift coupons for wigs or personal care items to 854 women battling cancer. The society also provides grants to 28 research institutions in California, some of which have employed Nobel Prize winners. Special features at this year’s relay included a Relay for Life iPhone app, which tracks fundraising progress and sends a thank you to donors.The ceremony concluded on Sunday with a lap around the track as the 127 registered cancer survivors were joined by this year’s volunteers and participants. “It signifies that we are going to fight back against cancer throughout the next 364 days, until we return to next year’s Relay,” said Breiner. ________ For additional photos from the Relay for Life, visit the Placer Herald's Photo Gallery.