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Ceres Relay for Life raises $40,023
Chris Vierra
Ceres Mayor Chris Vierra volunteers for the pie-throwing booth at Saturdays Ceres Relay for Life. - photo by Courtesy of Becki Nicholes

Saturday's 15-hour Ceres Relay for Life event succeeded in raising $40,023.19 for the American Cancer Society but fell short of a $59,000 goal.

The final number is expected to climb since the Ceres Relay's fundraising effort can go until later in the year, said Dena Pimentel of the American Cancer Society.

The annual Relay event took place at the Ceres High School football stadium one day after Ceres' last graduation of the week. Nineteen teams signed up and actively raised money, breaking last year's number. The day's activities began when the Ceres Lions Club cooked up breakfast for cancer survivors.

The opening ceremony that began shortly after 9 a.m. included the singing of the National Anthem.

The first lap was reserved for only cancer survivors who were all given purple Relay T-shirts. A large number lined up on the track, organized from the newest survivors at the beginning to the longest survivors.
Various speakers addressed the crowd throughout the day and into the evening.

Pimentel felt like the heat suppressed the number of participants, which numbered about 215, and kept participants in their campsites.

"We actually raised quite a bit the day of, which was still surprising. Overall it was really good. We really would like to get the community more involved so we'll work on getting more flyers, more posters. Without having an event leader this year, that is our big focus for 2018. We're trying to put a committee together as we speak now. This is a community driven event so once we get back in there and get a committee it'll get better."

Pimentel said she lost her Ceres sister, Judy Winters, to cancer two years ago. Relatives came up from Visalia to participate in Pimentel's Bahama Mamas team.

"We still have so many friends there we decided to put our team in Ceres and we have a big fundraiser for her in October. The money we raise will go to Ceres.

The top six fundraisers within the active groups were Cost Less Fights Back, which raised $6,340; Bahama Mamas, $5,700; Hunting for a Cure, which raised $4,229; the Strike Out Cancer team which collected $4,187l ; Crushing for a Cure, $3,776; Fighting for Our Angels team, $3,572.
Wells Fargo Bank was the top dollar raising company with $672.

Top fundraising individuals were Pimentel at $2,440; Robert Hall, $1,292; and Sonja Azevedo, $1,192.

When nightfall came over the on the Relay it was time for the emotional luminaria ceremony whereby names of loved ones were placed on bags which were then lit up by candles. At the 7 p.m. evening ceremony cancer survivor Josh Modling spoke about the recent loss of his mother. A slideshow featuring lost loved ones began at 7:30 p.m. with a local bagpiper leading the Luminaria event.

Pimentel said the luminaria was beautifully done and was one of the best she has witnessed.

Pimentel said that to reach the $59,000 Ceres goal, ideas are in the works to organize a Ceres' Got Talent show.

"We'll kind of throw a couple of things together for September/October and then a lighting ceremony at Christmas time, maybe at the park or something, for our survivors and people we've lost to cancer," said Pimentel.

Relay for Life was founded in 1985 by a colorectal surgeon Dr. Gordy Klatt in Tacoma, Wash., who received pledges for running for 24 hours. Some 83 miles later he had raised $27,000. The effort was expanded to teams and Relay for Life was formed.