Organizers of this year's Relay for Life are looking forward to a "bigger and better" event at Yosemite High School May 17 and 18.
With thousands of people diagnosed with cancer every year, American Cancer Society Relay for Life participants are doing what they can to help raise awareness and funds for research and other programs that help those fighting cancer. Last year, the Mountain Area event raised nearly $60,000 and event chairperson Tami Michel and co-chair Linda Maddox are encouraging the community to get involved in this year's event and surpass last year's fundraising efforts.
This year's theme is "You can be a Hero," and relay teams are being encouraged to decorate their campsites and wear costumes depicting their favorite Super Heroes.
Jody Jo Mise of KISS Country 93.7 FM will make a special appearance at 9 a.m., Saturday, May 17, during opening ceremonies that celebrate cancer survivors, accomplishments, and hope. Mise, a breast cancer survivor, will speak about her personal experience with beating cancer.
The event will kick-off with an opening ceremony at 9 a.m. that celebrates survivors, progress, accomplishments and hope. Then, cancer survivors will start the relay by taking the first lap around the track at 9:30 a.m., and they are all invited to the annual Survivor's Breakfast immediately following the survivor's lap. All survivors are welcome and encouraged to attend. Breakfast will be catered by Crab Cakes Restaurant and there will be a raffle, speakers and entertainment.
New this year will be the "Kid's Endzone," including a bounce house sponsored by the Oakhurst Mountain Lions Club, games, and arts and crafts.
"We encourage the entire Mountain Area to bring their children to the event to enjoy all the activities and fun events," Maddox said.
Crazy Hat Contest or the Road to Recovery car race featuring Flintstone-style cars built by teams. The cars are judged separately on decorations and how well they do in the race. There are also watermelon and pie eating contests, various entertainers, and DJs all day and all night long.
The event will also be celebrating caregivers.
"It's the caregivers that are there all the time, helping those fighting cancer to make their doctors appointments and get a balanced meal," said Michel. "Without a caregiver, it's really hard."
The 24-hour event will wrap up with a closing ceremony at 9 a.m. May 19, where attendees will be energized to keep fighting against the disease throughout the coming year.
All proceeds from the event benefit the Central Valley Chapter of the American Cancer Society. Proceeds help with research, advocacy, patient services, and the "Look Good, Feel Better" program.
In 2010, the American Cancer Society recognized the Eastern Madera County Relay for Life event as the No. 2 event in the country for per capita fundraising at $3.45 per person.
Event moved to Yosemite High School
"We approached Yosemite High School about moving the event from Wasuma Elementary School, back to Yosemite High where the event originated 14 years ago, hoping to reignite that spark of excitement ," Michel said. "YHS was truly excited about supporting Relay for Life and providing their facilities for the event at no charge.".
In addition to the football field, the school is providing access to the cafeteria for the various service clubs to provide meals during the 24 hour event.
"Yosemite High has done everything they can to help make this event a huge success," Michel said. "Having Relay for Life at the high school will allow room for more activities, more teams, and more entertainment."
"We at Yosemite High School are thrilled to be able to partner with the great folks at Relay for Life," said Randy Seals, school principal. "Our beautiful campus and facilities will make for a tremendous event. Assisting in the effort to raise funds to hopefully one day bring an end to cancer is one that we should all jump at the chance to participate in. Such a tremendous community event deserves to be held at a first-class location, and the YHS campus and Steve Raupp Field are the perfect locations for our community to gather together to do our part to battle cancer. We are very happy to be part of this worthwhile event."
Every person makes a difference
"The more teams we have, the more excitement, energy, creativity, education and, most importantly, fundraising we bring to the event," Maddox said. "In a team, every single person counts and makes a difference in the fight against cancer."
There are currently 25 teams signed-up for the event including three student led teams from Yosemite High, two from Minarets High, and teams from Coarsegold Elementary, Rivergold Elementary, Spring Valley School and Oakhurst Elementary School. There are also teams from Oakhurst Lutheran Church and Sierra Vista Presbyterian Church. Oakhurst Lutheran Church has consistently been the top fundraising team at the event.
"It's wonderful to see all the excitement amongst the participating teams,'' Maddox said. "It's fun to welcome back returning teams and it's encouraging to see new teams participating this year."
Maddox said everyone has their own reason for becoming involved in Relay for Life whether it's because of personal loss or just to be active in the community.
"Each person on the team has their own talents, ideas, and experiences, and it is always fun to watch these teams take on a personality of their own," Maddox said.
Two new teams this year are a team formed by Oakhurst Realtor Melissa Buller ("Hand-In-Hand") and a team from Form Fitness.
"The fact I lost my mother to cancer three years ago and so many people are still being diagnosed with the disease, has inspired me to put a team together," Buller said. "I decided to jump in and fight for the cause. Anyone that wants to be a part of our team, can call me at (559) 641-8585, or sign-up at the Relay for Life website."
Buller added that if any cancer survivors are not on a team, they should contact her so she can make sure they have the opportunity to participate in the event.
"We are excited to support Relay for Life as this event brings families, friends and co-workers together as a team to raise funds for the American Cancer Society," said Stacey Woods, general manager of Form Fitness. "As a community we can celebrate the tenacious spirit of survivors, recognize their steadfast caregivers and honor the loved ones we have lost to cancer."
Woods said all members of the Form Fitness team will be dressed as Marvel super hero characters.
"We will have the unified mission to combat the evil villain cancer from reaching our friends, family and others across the globe." Woods said.
There will be a survivor pre-relay event at the MET Cinema, 9:30 a.m., April 26, for anyone in the community that has ever heard the words "You have cancer." The event will include a free movie and free food.
Event organizers are not only seeking relay teams, survivors, and caregivers, they are also looking for sponsorships, and raffle items for the survivor breakfast. If interested in donating or being a sponsor, call (559) 683-2345, or email firstname.lastname@example.org"> email@example.com.
Details: Tami Michel, (559) 658-1410, Linda Maddox, (559) 760-2614, Donna Gavelo, (559) 451-0163, relayforlife.org/easternmaderacountyca.