Team registrations were up more than 49 percent this year, as increased community support from residents and local businesses led the fundraising efforts to jump more than 23 percent over last year's record performance.
According to Event Chair David Wahl, "How lucky we are to live in a community as caring and generous as far East County. The beauty of Relay For Life is that we can raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for much-needed cancer research and services for our local residents and have a great time all day and all night in the process."
Kelli McDaniel of the American Cancer Society stated, "The far East County relay event has quickly become one of the biggest relays in all of California and definitely one of the largest fundraisers. It is no surprise that the far East County relay has been selected as one of the few California sites for next year's Cancer Prevention Study (CPS-3)." Government funding for the National Cancer Institute has been declining in recent years, which is another reason relays have become so vital in the fight against cancer.
As of 10 a.m. on Sunday morning, the top fundraising teams were Club G Surfing For A Cure, led by Teresa Contreras, with $12,321; Summerset Originals, Donna Coker $12,238; Take A Bite Out of Cancer, Dr. Tracy Benhamou, $10,840; Dreyer's Summerset Survivors & Pals, Judy Maritz, $9,151; and Golden Hills Community Church Choir, Nancy McDaniel, $6,461.
The top individual fundraisers were Brad Swisher of Team Swisher, with $4,574; Sean Brannan of Team Brannan, $4,343; Gina Gonzalez of Club G, $3,515; Dori Stevens of Sutter-Delta, $3,498; and Chanel Benhamou of Take a Bite Out of Cancer, $3,175.
The relay season nationwide concludes on Aug. 31. Donations are still being accepted online at www.acsevents.org/relay/ca/brentwood or by mail to American Cancer Society, c/o Kelli McDaniel, RFL Far East County/Brentwood, 1885 Oak Park Blvd., Pleasant Hill, CA 94523.
This year, 181 cancer survivors participated in the 2007 Relay For Life of Far East County. Cancer survivors were recognized by all participants as they walked the track during the Survivors Lap. More than 1,000 luminaria bags illuminated the
track at Ohmstede Field, giving hope to those still battling cancer. It was a wonderful tribute to those who have lost their lives to the disease as well as those who have emerged victorious.
According to Wahl, "The Luminaria Ceremony was the most powerful I've ever attended. Between the beautiful voice of 15-year-old Sammy Bustos and the inspiring story of Britton Swisher as told by his father Brian (former Brentwood mayor), you've never seen such a collection of broad smiles and watery eyes."
Event Co-chair Fran Bowman was moved by the sight of people coming together for the common good of others. "As I walked through campsites talking to families, I stopped to visit with Team Josh's Josh Maligro, who showed me several photos of kids he had met at Children's Hospital in Oakland.
"In one of the photos was a young girl they named Angel, since she passed away while he was undergoing treatment for his leukemia. I was so amazed by his courage and enthusiasm and thought to myself, 'How am I going to make it through Opening Ceremony?'"
Fran also spoke with Team Turbo Jets' Stephanie Devlin, who led her team in honor of her brother TJ, who passed away from cancer in 2006. Bowman acknowledged, "Every time I walked by the Brentwood Rotary campsite, I noticed that it was empty because so many Rotarians were busy helping throughout the entire event."
Those interested in the joining the 33 teams that have already registered for next year's event should contact Fran Bowman at 513-4515. All team registration forms collected before July 31 receive a discounted fee of only $85. Fran will take the helm as Event Chair for 2008.
"David Wahl has done such an incredible job as event chair for the 2007 Relay For Life of Far East County," said Fran. "My vision is to keep building on our successes of the past three years. I want to create new opportunities for planning committee members and grow this team to keep the group vital and effective.
"Dave and I know that a huge reason for our success this year was due not only to planning committee members but our enthusiastic team captains. They were absolutely awesome!"
Anyone interested in being a part of the 2008 Relay For Life of Far East County Planning Committee should contact Bowman. "Next year we hope to have even more cancer survivors participate in the event while continuing our growth in number of teams and fundraising dollars," she said.
Organizers would also like to extend their thanks to Liberty Union High School District for the use of the facility and to the City of Brentwood for its ongoing support and participation.
- Contributed by Brett Morey