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Ceres rallies against cancer
Under cool and at times rainy skies, the Ceres Relay for Life completed its 24-hour run last weekend to raise tens of thousands of dollars for the American Cancer Society.

The sixth annual Ceres fundraiser was hosted at the Ceres High School athletic stadium.

"It went really well," said event chairman Lem Klein. "Everyone was having a good time. The rain kind of put a damper on us a little."

The weather and the economy probably played a role in the noticeably smaller turnout of teams. Thirty-five teams signed up but only 28 showed up, which affected attendance and fundraising ability. The event set a goal of raising $86,000 but Klein said the effort hit almost $70,000.

"The lack of six or seven teams - or about 60 to 80 people - and the bad economy and I think even the weather forecast all played into it," said Klein.

Prior to the opening ceremonies, Ceres Lions Club members cooked breakfast for cancer survivors and their family members who were asked to partake in the starting lap around the track at 9 a.m.

The opening ceremony on Saturday included posting of colors by the Ceres American Legion Post 419, a moving song performed by Rashelle Garrett of Ceres as well as an inspirational message from Dana Vaughan of Turlock who spoke about her adopted son Mateo's battle with eye cancer. Mateo lost his eye to cancer but has been declared cancer free.

"All of us can agree here what survivorship is about," said Mrs. Vaughn. "is what you have today."

The first lap was reserved for cancer survivors who wore purple Relay T-shirts. A large group lined up on the track, organized from the newest survivors at the beginning to the longest survivors. Among those in front included Diana Terra of Modesto, Linda Horn of Redding, Susan Pavlakis of Groveland, Bernie Bland of Los Banos and Mariann Shrader of Ceres.

The rains held off until after the luminarie ceremony held on the darkened track. Donors purchased candles sitting inside bags in memory of a loved one lost to cancer.

At about 10:30 p.m. the rains came and pelted the track for hours. That didn't discourage many.

"People still walked," said Klein. "Cost Less Foods had a rain suit which members took turns walking the track in. The track was never empty. It was great."

Klein said he's working with Shane Parsons of Diamond Bar Arena to grow the Ceres Relay into a bigger community event.

"We're doing it but I think there's so much potential with Ceres and the businesses community to where we could grow it into a major community event a four or five years from now. We're planting seeds for that today."

Klein, who lost his mother to cancer 16 years ago, said he got involved when the company he works for put him in charge of participating in the fundraiser.

"It's a passion. To me it's a great cause."

Around the track members of the public were offered a vast amount of information on various cancers, including prevention and cure.

Funds raised in Ceres will be used to support the myriads of services and research by the ACS. Besides the medical research, the ACS offers emotional support to cancer patients and families, and volunteers provide rides for patients to chemotherapy treatments.