“We’ve completed our Relay, but there is still plenty of time to fundraise,” said Oakley Relay Chair Tobie Meyer. “We set our goal at $115,000 this year. After this weekend, we’re at about $93,000. If each of our participants raises $55, we’ll reach our goal. And we have until the end of August to do it.”
Relay For Life is a community fundraiser benefiting the American Cancer Society. Oakley Relay teams kept at least one member on the Freedom High School track throughout the 24-hour event to symbolize that cancer – and the fight against it – never rests. Meyer said more than 1,300 spectators, 397 of which were registered participants, came out to support last weekend’s Relay.
Meyer couldn’t be happier with this year’s event and hopes the spirit of Relay will remain strong in Oakley as people continue to fundraise. “This year’s event was phenomenal,” she said. “It’s been our best Relay yet. Everyone had a great time.”
Though the Relay has come and gone, participants can still fundraise through the Relay website at www.relayforlife.org. Community fundraisers will be held this summer, and Meyer asks the community to check in and see what’s new. Relay fundraising closes on Aug. 31, the end of the American Cancer Society’s fiscal year.
This year, Relay was transported back to the ’80s, and participants showed up in style, wearing neon colors, parachute pants and leg warmers. Guests participated in an ’80s-themed karaoke battle and Relayers danced the night away at Club Relay, which played ’80s hits until the sun came up.
Meyer is most proud of the 88 cancer survivors who visited Relay and took part in the Survivor Lap that kicked off the festivities. Meyer hoped to get 75 survivors registered, but surpassing her goal was a heartwarming experience – shared by many spectators as they lined the track to cheer on the survivors and their caregivers.
“The survivor lap is my favorite part,” said Relay spectator Clara Raymond, visiting from Vallejo. “It’s so inspiring to see people walking proudly around the track, showing that cancer isn’t going to stop them. They’re so brave. I come out every year to support my cousin, who’s a five-year breast cancer survivor.”
Relay is an all-day party, but when the sun sets, Relay participants take a moment to remember and honor those who have lost their battle with cancer. In a departure from the traditional Relay format, in which event organizers place around the track illuminated bags decorated with messages of hope and photos of happier times – the Luminaria – the Oakley event gives that task to the Relayers themselves.
“I’ve been doing Relay for years, but the Luminaria ceremony breaks my heart every time,” said Joel Casper of Antioch. “But it reminds you why you’re out to support Relay and the American Cancer Society. Hopefully one day we can stop adding names to this list. I’m not sure when that’s going to happen, but with events like this, we’re going to make cancer a thing of the past.”
For Luminaria Chair Jeannene Brady, giving Relay participants the opportunity to light their own Luminaria bags and place them around the track helps participants make a deeper connection to the event. Colored-coded glow sticks designate whether the luminaria bag represents a fighter, survivor or fallen warrior in the war on cancer.
“The teams like lighting their own Luminaria for a couple of reasons,” said Brady. “It makes the entire ceremony more personal, and they don’t need to search all over the track to find their Luminaria bags because they’re right at their campsites. The three different colors around the track bring more awareness to how many people this awful disease has taken from us and it lets us know how many of our fellow participants are still fighting and how many are survivors.”
Relay For Life continues in East County this summer at the Brentwood event, held at Liberty High School on June 16 and 17, and the Antioch/Pittsburg Relay at Los Medanos College on June 23 and 24.
For more information, visit www.relayforlife.org.