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Ceres Relay for Life this Saturday
Event to start at 9 a.m. at Ceres High School
2016 Relay
The Ceres Relay for Life will start out at 9 a.m. this Saturday at the Ceres High School football field as it did here in May 2016. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/ Courier file photo

The annual Ceres Relay for Life gets underway at 9 a.m. Saturday morning and is expected to draw at least a thousand people over the following 15-hour period with these goals: offering support to those affected by cancer and raising money to bring the world closer to curing cancer.

The annual Ceres Relay for Life is set for Saturday at the Ceres High School football stadium. Nineteen teams have signed up since the kickoff and have been actively engaged in fundraising.

This is the first time the Ceres Relay has been held in June because of availability of the Ceres High football field.

"We have three more teams than last year, that's exciting," said Dena Pimentel of the local American Cancer Society (ACS) office.

The goal of the Ceres Relay - which has a Carnival theme - is to raise $59,000, she said. 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.

The Relay gets off to an early start on Saturday when members of the Ceres Lions Club cook and serve up breakfast to cancer survivors at 8 a.m. west of the stadium. Survivors are also given a free gift package and invited to walk the first lap at 9 a.m. The first lap may be walked by survivors, caretakers or any other supporters of the cause.

The opening ceremony at 8:30 a.m. will include introductions and a short speech by caregiver Nicole Shell of Ceres whose mother just passed away from cancer.

For the following 15 hours, team members will take turns around the track, either running, walking, wheeling or being pulled. Each team is supposed to have a member on the track during the 15 hours.

The public is invited to come down and cheer on the walkers and enjoy the entertainment that will be provided the relay. There will be ample opportunities to play carnival games or purchase items being sold at each team's station. Pimentel said booths will be selling linguica sandwiches, snow cones, popcorn and cotton candy.

All proceeds will benefit the ACS. Some teams will sell food and homemade crafts, and offer raffle baskets. Each booth will highlight a specific cancer and will offer literature on that cancer.

The American Cancer Society will be manning a booth that will dispense information on how the ACS disperses money, and cancer awareness to reduce the likelihood of getting cancer.

At dusk comes the emotionally touching Luminaria event, which allows anyone to decorate a bag in memory of a loved one in which later a candle will be placed and set around the darkened track as each name is read over the loudspeaker. Luminaries may be purchased for $10 on Saturday morning and afternoon.

At the 7 p.m. evening ceremony cancer survivor Josh Modling will speak about the recent loss of his mother. A slideshow featuring lost loved ones will begin at 7:30 p.m. A bagpiper will lead the Luminaria event.

The relay goes all night and closes with a midnight ceremony.

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.