Relay for Life of Santa Clara on May 3 was electric with energy and hope as cancer survivors were honored and uplifted, loved ones lost to cancer were remembered, and fundraising goals for cancer research were exceeded.
“We’ve surpassed every goal we set,” says event chair Rucha Nanavati. “We’ve nearly doubled in size in the number of teams and the amount raised since last year. This is called knocking it out of the park!”
The annual relay is part of a nationwide fundraising effort by the American Cancer Society. The 27 Santa Clara teams—328 walkers—participating in the 2014 relay raised $111,370.96—and counting—to fight back against cancer.
Cancer survivors wearing purple t-shirts began the relay with an initial solo lap around the 400-meter track at Buchser Middle School’s Townsend Field, where teams pitched tents to camp out overnight. Because cancer never sleeps, one member of each team had to be on the track at all times during the 24-hour relay, which lasted from 10 a.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday.
Team “Sock It to Cancer”—Santa Clara Girl Scout troops 61148 and 61312—led off the team laps. They have walked in the relay for the last seven years, and troop leader Jennie Lyle pointed out that the first year, the girls struggled to think of someone with cancer to honor by their participation. Now, however, each can think of several.
Educating people about cancer prevention is part of the relay, and each team found its own unique and fun way to raise awareness as well as sweeten the pot of funds already raised through pledges from family and friends. They created informative displays that ringed the track.
The hardhat-wearing “Cancer Wrecking Crew” raised almost $26,000, making it the top team. They fitted walkers with decorated bras to wear for $1 for two laps. Their motto: Treasure your chest.
The Santa Clara High School girls’ basketball “Family Team” of 21 set up a game called “Bra Pong.” The goal was to toss a small ball—three for a dollar—into the cups of one of the colorful bras attached to a pegboard.
According to the American Lung Association, close to 90 percent of lung cancer is caused by smoking, and at the “Kick Cancer’s A$$” display, walkers could sign a pledge saying they would never smoke. Photos were posted of celebrities who had smoked and paid the ultimate price: Peter Jennings, Nat King Cole, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Babe Ruth, Steve McQueen, Walt Disney, Ed Sullivan, John Wayne, and others.
“Share your journey with others,” says opening speaker and cancer survivor Mary Jane Stiff, who pointed out that over the last 50 or so years, society has gone from keeping the news that someone had cancer quiet, to talking about it openly and sharing the benefits of early screening. “We can work miracles if we share our knowledge.”
Help finish the fight against cancer by contributing to one of the 2014 teams at www.RelayForLife.org/SantaClaraCa. Just click on “Donate.”