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Painting the Town Purple to Wipe Out Cancer

American Cancer Society

Rain or shine, American Cancer Society Relay for Life volunteers have been painting Santa Clara purple. The color purple represents all types of cancer, not just one — as in a pink ribbon for breast cancer.

Since mid-January, teams of volunteers have been canvassing businesses around town, sharing information about the 19th annual Relay for Life of Santa Clara from April 27 – 28.

Relay team members take turns walking for 24 hours — from 11 a.m. on Saturday to 9 a.m. on Sunday — to raise awareness of life-saving cancer screening and funds for research to prevent and treat it.


A study funded by the American Cancer Society and published in January concludes that improved health care is a factor in the continuous decline in cancer death rates in the U.S. since 1991. This progress could be accelerated with a broader application of existing knowledge of preventable cancers to disadvantaged groups.

Mattie Baker organized KW Commercial Cares, a relay team of realtors from Keller Williams Silicon City Commercial in Santa Clara. Baker, Lan Rupf and cousins Juan Ortiz and Juan Sanchez dropped off Relay for Life posters at businesses at Mercado Center and Santa Clara Square on March 7.

“Anything we can do to support cancer research, we’re happy to be involved,” said Vanessa Sabre, store manager of Starbucks at Santa Clara Square.

Baker couldn’t be missed passing out posters in her purple attire and purple hair — which, later that day, washed out in the rain.

Baker’s sister, Lizzette, was diagnosed with melanoma when she was 30 and was a long-time survivor. Then at 46, she was diagnosed with colon cancer, which spread. She fought bravely but ultimately lost the battle at 54.

“It was new therapies and drugs that gave Lizzette those eight years,” said Baker, who started a second relay team, Team Mariposa, in memory of her sister.

Other KW Commercial Cares team members also lost loved ones to cancer. Ortiz and Sanchez’s grandmother died of lung cancer. One of their aunts has died and another is battling the disease.

Rupf’s half brother died of stomach cancer and her parents-in-law died of lung cancer.

“You can have a healthy life but still get cancer,” said Rupf.

Cancer is considered primarily a disease of old age, with more than 60 percent of cases diagnosed in people over 65. The longer one lives, the greater the chance of getting cancer.

“If we are to find a cure, we need to band together,” said Baker. “To do research, money is needed.”

Each Relay for Life team sets its own fund-raising goal. The 2018 Relay for Life of Santa Clara raised over $100,000. The goal for 2019 is $120,000.

Thirty-five teams have already signed up for the 24-hour walk at Buchser Middle School’s Townsend Field, 1111 Bellomy St.

Non-walkers are needed to raise awareness about resources for cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and support. Cancer survivors, who do not need to walk, are encouraged to sign up and attend the relay. They will be celebrated with a free lunch, T-shirt and activities.

Visit to join any team, register a new team, register as a survivor, donate to team members or be a relay sponsor.

“We’re thrilled with the success of this year’s Paint the Town Purple and so grateful to the volunteers — Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity and others from Santa Clara University, the Chamber of Commerce, Keller Williams, other community members,” said Tabitha Kappeler-Hurley, one of four Relay for Life of Santa Clara co-chairs.


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