By Robin GOLDSWORTHY
It started with cheers of celebration and ended with exhausted applause for 24 hours that were well spent.
The 14th annual Foothills Relay for Life event took place at Clark Magnet High School this past weekend. The site hosted 23 teams that were prepared to have its members walk for 24 hours to support the American Cancer Society. Beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday, team members lined Clark’s field to cheer on those participating in the Survivors’ Lap, the first lap of the event that celebrates cancer survivors and their caregivers. From then on, young and old were on the field, some walking alone, others in groups.
“We had 23 teams sign up,” said Lori Carrico, who co-chaired the event with Paula Warner. Carrico added that traditionally Relay is held in May. “Having it one month early I think caught some folks off guard.”
The reasons that people participated in Relay were varied but all shared one common thread: they or someone they loved had cancer.
“My parents are both colon cancer survivors and because of regular checkups theirs was detected early and treatable,” said Carrico.
Keeping the walkers fed was the responsibility of Jean Maluccio.
“We had plenty [of food],” she said. Most was donated including product from Sprouts [market], Wienerschnitzel, Togos, Berolina Bakery, Tickle Tree, Gavina Coffee, Sparkletts and Rita’s Italian Ice. Montrose Travel – a major sponsor of the event – provided burgers and dogs for lunch. Local foodies also sent donations including mac and cheese, desserts, salads, pasta and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
“We had great help, cooking and serving,” said Maluccio. “Mike Baldwin and Calvin Shutts helped cook lunch, Anthony Stuart was our right – and left – hands during lunch.” She also praised the Prom Plus Club from Crescenta Valley High School, a strong volunteer force.
New faces were found on the track this year including members of the Montrose Search and Rescue Team and former Assemblymember Anthony Portantio.
“I have been to many Relays for Life throughout the years and have supported many cancer-related issues and policy efforts that have brought me close to many survivors,” Portantino said. “This year, I had some very enthusiastic team members who wanted us to go farther than support, so we put together a team. It was a great experience that has me looking forward to next year.”
As dusk approached, the Girl Scouts began setting up the bags and candles for the moving luminaria ceremony. The lunch bags were decorated with the names of those who fought cancer – some survived, others did not. Votive candles were lit and placed inside the bags. The bags were then placed around the perimeter of the field.
At 9 p.m., the teams made their way to the stage and were given a small candle. After a moving testimony, a candle was lit from one on the stage. That flame was then extended to members of the audience who in turn ignited the candle of those around them. Soon the entire audience had a lit candle and began to make their way around the field as the names on the luminaria bags were read.
The luminaria ceremony lasted about 45 minutes and when it was over, the candles were extinguished and team members returned to walk the field. Others huddled in blankets and watched a movie while some prepared to sleep.
Despite a slight mishap – the sprinklers unexpectedly came on around 11:30 p.m. – the event ended after Stacy Toyon, a local resident who battled and won her fight with cancer, shared her experience.
Early calculations estimate that $65,000 was raised after Relay expenses. Donations can be made to the 2014 Relay through Aug. 31.
Carrico will be stepping down as co-chair this year, but said she will continue to be part of the Relay tradition.
“I will most certainly be involved in the years to come,” she said. “I want to help my future chairs and work with new teams and help with survivors. What I really hope to see is more of our schools come back … the YMCA kids camps, too.”
“Our community and businesses are the best! We are family.”