Residents from across the Imperial Valley flocked to Imperial Valley College’s outdoor track to inspire cancer patients with hope on April 14 for the local 18th Relay for Life: Give Cancer the Boot.
In 2017 Valley residents raised $45,000 for cancer research and this year 30 teams of volunteers expect to raise $50,000, noted Linda Shaner, local Fund-the-Cure leader. She explained Relay was started by Gordon Klatt who circled a track for 83 miles at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma in 1985 and raised $27,000 from donors.
Relay is the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society and spawned 5,200 events across the U.S. Since its debut raised nearly $5 billion.
The first lap around the track on Saturday was dedicated to cancer survivors and care givers. Five honorees joining them included Rick Wolery, Sandra Espinoza, Martha Otero, Maria De Lourdes Moreno and Ivanna Vallejo.
At 9 p.m. Saturday the Relay had luminaria (lighted paper lanterns) placed on the track donated for those lost to cancer and patients still battling the disease. There were 100 survivors signed up for the ceremony.
“I hope the day will come when we don’t need these events,” said Shaner. “But until that day comes, I’ll be here, a voice fighting cancer.”
In remission for 21 years, Wolery was a member of the El Toro Export team with 80 members and one of the biggest supporters of Relay. Wolery and his family have spent numerous years cooking food for a number of organizations at the event.
“This is a way of staying positive. It offers a tremendous deal of moral support,” said Wolery. “It brings out doctors and families, but we all carry a baton for the Relay.”
Volunteering for three years for Relay was Martha Otero, a 12-year cancer survivor. Otero is a community champion for all the time and energy she has dedicated to promoting and assisting with the Relay.
“I especially like the testimonials of the survivors and what they’ve gone through,” said Otero. “People realize we are fighting cancer and meeting our goal.”
Vallejo was recognized as a care giver. She was nominated by Imperial Valley College classmate Aaliyah Romero, who was also a team captain for the IVC One Team. Romero said she nominated Vallejo because despite a busy schedule at college she still finds time to care for her mother, a two-year cancer survivor. Romero hopes other students follow Vallejo’s proven leadership.
“The main thing, if you’re undecided what to do with your future, volunteering for Relay can open your mind to what can be done,” said Romero. “You might even find your passion.”
Prevailing over two diagnoses of cancer, first thyroid cancer and then melanoma, was Dan Standiford, a 30-year employee with the Imperial County Public Works Department, a rodeo lasso competitor and a 1982 graduate of Holtville High School. Standiford remarked cancer gives a patient a chance to change their life.
“Cancer is not a death sentence--it’s a life sentence,” he said “There’s no reason to give up. I know people who fought it and survived.”