Participants arrived at Pittsburg’s Los Medanos College with purpose and spirit and left happy, having raised more than $113,000 for cancer research and prevention. The Antioch/Pittsburg Relay attracted more than 500 people, comprising 72 teams.
“We had a rough start this year, but we’re really happy with how well the committee pulled it out,” said Amanda Roa, who served as Relay co-chair with Monica Olson. “It had a really good feel – a community, family feeling.”
The event gave many participants a chance to do their part while friends and family fight a disease without a cure.
Marcel Castanchoa, a member of the Ground and Pound team, helped the cause with both his wallet and his feet. Castanchoa not only raised more money than anyone – $3,400 – but walked a relay-best 140 laps, for which he was given a prize basket during the closing ceremony. Castanchoa was committed to walking a marathon in honor of his 38-year-old cousin, Sandrine, who is battling breast cancer for the second time.
“It was healing in a lot of ways; very emotional in a lot of ways,” Castanchoa said. “The beautiful thing about this to me is all these different walks of life come to this thing for 24 hours and are wonderful to each other.”
To make the fun a nonstop affair, the event hosted contests such as the “Miss” Relay Pageant, where guys donned skirts and coconut bras in an effort to raise the most money. Also featured were themed laps such as the Crazy Hat Lap, the Team Spirit Lap and the Pajama, Teddy Bear and Bed Head Lap.
Walking in the Relay for Life is also a way to honor and keep alive the memory of a loved one who has lost the battle against cancer. Several relayers with that connection to the battle wore T-shirts and held signs bearing a friend or relative’s picture.
Bob Hunter, a former Relay chairman, captained two teams comprising 18 members walking in memory of his wife, Roberta, who passed away six years ago after battling pancreatic cancer.
“We’re all here as one family joining the fight to hopefully save lives,” Hunter said.
The Relay served as a celebration for those who have defeated cancer. Dressed in purple, a large group of survivors at the event served as inspiration.
As nightfall came, participants readied for the emotional luminaria ceremony, an occasion to remember those who have passed away and celebrate those who have defeated cancer. All along the track of the practice field at LMC, decorated white bags filled with glow sticks illuminated the walking path. Participants decorated the bags with pictures and sayings of both victims and survivors.
Angela Huizar, a breast cancer survivor, gave an inspirational message about how she was able to fight the disease and carry on with her life. Dr. Nicola Ally, a radiation oncologist at Epic Care Cancer Center in Antioch, spoke about the lessons she’s learned from her patients.
“Every day is a gift and there is always hope,” Ally said. “Even when a loved one has passed on, there is still that memory, that inspiration and that desire for a better life and a better future.”