The temperature was rapidly approaching the triple digits Saturday morning in the parking lot next to the track at Los Medanos College to kick off the eighth annual Antioch/Pittsburg Relay For Life, but it didn't wilt the desire of more than 2,000 people to spend 24 hours raising funds, remembering loved ones and celebrating cancer survivors.
Relay For Life is a life-changing event that brings together more than 3.5 million people every year to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer, said Gibran Leeshan, who MCed the opening ceremony. We Relay because we have been touched by cancer and desperately want to put an end to the disease.
Donations for the annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society fell this year due to the economic slowdown, according to Bob Hunter, the event chairman. As of Monday, $173,000 had been raised, compared to more than $280,000 last year.
This was our biggest year for (the number of) participants, he said. Like any charitable organization in this economy, it's not what it's been as far as the money. People are hurting. When you have to make a choice between food on the table, shelter and gas, we come far down (the list). But I think we did well.
Despite temperatures reaching 103 degrees in the afternoon as people walked around the LMC track, no one passed out from the heat but a few who felt woozy were checked out by the on-site ambulance crew and sent home to rest.
The event began with a prayer from Pastor Larry Webb of the First Community Church, whose father passed away on Father's Day seven years ago due to melanoma. I know how that feels, he said. I pray that this walk will be one more big, big step in the journey toward the end of this terrible disease.
Antioch Mayor Don Freitas, who annually leads a team in the Relay, told the crowd that the event just gets bigger and bigger, better and better. The one thing that brings us here is that someone we love has died, someone we love has survived. I think all of us want to make sure that if anyone gets cancer, they can be immediately healed.
That's what this is all about. This is what community is all about: coming together and fighting together for a common good. I want to salute you and thank you.
Donations are still being accepted. To do so, call Bob Hunter at 925-439-2693 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.