Before the Ceres Relay for Life opened at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, the goal of raising $50,000 had already been reached. Every penny raised by teams on the Ceres High School athletic field was extra that will go toward the fight against cancer, which is becoming less of a killer in many circumstances.
The total may reach $70,000.
"We fundraised throughout the year, so going into Relay we knew we would hit our goal of $56,500," said Relay Chairperson Angela Durossette. "We are currently over $65,000 but money can be turned in until August 31. I have money that will be turned in today. Home Depot will match what was made, so that is another $1,250. So by the time it is all said and done and they close the books, we should be very close to $70,000, if not more."
She reported that the weekend Relay had less teams participating than last year, but most of them raised more than $1,000.
"It was a good year, even though it wasn't as busy day of."
Many of those who participated in the 24-hour relay around the track have been touched in personal ways by cancer. Ceres resident Dan Aguilar participated in memory of his wife, Alma Aguilar, who died from ovarian cancer at age 59 in 2009.
Sheila Brandt of Ceres spoke to the morning crowd gathered for the opening ceremony. The Ceres relay this year was held in memory of Sheila's 32-year-old niece, Candice Lynn Myers LaFromboise, whose life was ended by soft tissue sarcoma on Sept. 25, 2014.
"In one word, cancer sucks," said Brandt. "It is a robber. It robs a person of their health, relationships, dignity and yes sometimes their life."
Brandt said her niece's cancer started out as a sore on the bottom of her foot when Candice was a senior in high school. The doctor first thought it wasn't healing because of her constant activity as a color guard member. The sore was later diagnosed as cancer but it disappeared after radiation treatments. The cancer, in September 2012, returned when Candice noticed a spot of her scalp. She had those removed along with lung tumors. Treatments and tumors were a constant the rest of her life.
"I need to say through all of this, Candice stayed faithful and positive," said Brandt. "She truly felt she would kick cancer's butt but that was not to be."
Brandt urged all in the audience to "see your doctor anytime something does not seem right with your body. Do not put it off."
Brandt noted that the Relay was just one way that funds are raised for cancer research and said "we need more money spent on rare types of cancers as well as childhood cancers. Through research we may someday not have to have Relays. Would that not be awesome?"
Despite the sobering tone of the event, there was a lot of fun activity as a constant stream of walkers and runners circled the track in exchange for pledges.
At the eastern edge of the football field, pies were being thrown - or shoved - in the faces of good sports who took a hit in exchange for $2 for the American Cancer Society. Victims of pie throwing - part of the Strike Out Cancer Legends team - included Couper and Channce Condit, Eric Ingwerson, Ken Lane and others.
The team also hosted baseball catcher Frank Reveira Sr. who remembers catching for Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry, Willie McCovery and Willie Mays after he was recruited out of Hawaii in 1956. He played for the New York and San Francisco Giants until 1961. He played winter ball with Roberto Clemente.
"That was my dream as a young kid," said Reveira. "I come from Kauai, Hawaii. My mom always had broom handles. I cut them and I'd go outside and throw up pebbles and hit them boom, boom, boom, boom. There was a lot of windows around and may have broken one window."
Phyllis Thornton, another member of the Legends Relay team, sports a Baltimore Orioles baseball cap worn by her husband. She had never attended a Relay for Life until this weekend. During her time Phyllis was remembering her mother, Ruth Simpson, who was claimed by cancer on Sept. 8, 2012. Ruth was well known in Ceres as owning and operating Burger 19 for many years before opening Chew N Chat prior to retiring in 1978.
"She was fine," remembered Thornton. "We went to Pismo in July on my birthday. She was kind of losing her balance but she wouldn't use canes or nothing and she fell on the boardwalk. She tripped and went down and blackened her face up. She didn't break any bones. Mom just finally realized she had a tumor. Just all of a sudden it came up. It was cancerous. She said ‘I'm 91 and I'm not going through chemo.' She went to the hospital on a Sunday at the end of August and she passed away Sept. 8."
The Cost Less Foods team raised $10,000, said Ceres store manager Del Ambris, doubling what it raised last year. He credited one employee, Dolores Aispuro, who sold $6,000 in tickets to customers after seeing that drugs from new ACS research has her brother's cancer in remission.
The event also allowed the public to have access to materials on certain kinds of cancers and ways to prevent cancer.