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Relay earns $80,000
Hundreds of persons braved triple-digit heat to raise funds for cancer research at last weekend's fourth annual Ceres Relay for Life at Ceres High School.

The 24-hour event at Ceres High School's football stadium raised an estimated $80,000 for the American Cancer Society's fight against cancer.

A total of 31 teams and approximately 1,500 participants and spectators participated in the American Cancer Society sponsored event.

Rissi Keys, a member of the Relay for Life Committee, said that a final count was not available when the event ended Sunday morning "but they were certain it was going to be at least $80,000."

"I am just stunned at this amount of money to be raised," said Keys. "We have some wonderful committed businesses and individuals in this town that really come through -- even in hard times."

Money will continue to pour in until September when the Relay season closes.

"I just know that we have another $5,000 to $10,000 that should be floating in," said Committee chair Kandy Thornhill. "I'm so happy. With the economy we struggled with teams and struggled with fundraisers and these teams just pulled together in the last week and were just fundraising like crazy. People just got on the ball."

Before the 24-hour Relay began at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, cancer survivors were treated to a free breakfast cooked by members of the Ceres Lions Club.

The relay started with the first lap being walked by cancer survivors, led by Madison Magee, a six-year-old Ceres girl who is battling brain cancer. Madison, a Hidahl Elementary School student, was honored with a "Survivor of the Year" award while her mother, Keri (Van Vooren) Magee, was honored as "Caregiver of the Year."

"We had gifts for her for being such a brave little girl and she got up on stage and said 'hi' to everybody," said Thornhill. "It was just really neat."

For the next 24 hours, team members took turns continuously walking or running on the track in half-hour increments. The event also included fun contests between teams on the CHS field. Members of the public came down to cheer on cancer survivors and those who walked as well as pausing to remember those who have lost their battle with cancer. They were also entertained with several music groups.

Thornhill said that the heat - thermometers on the field read 106 degrees - made things a bit uncomfortable, especially for the survivors.

"It was hard but we had a great turn-out," commented Thornhill.

Corporate teams that participated included Ceres Unified School District, Gallo Winery, Wal-Mart, Guarantee Bank, Diamond Bar Arena, Soroptimist International of Ceres, E.R. Vine & Sons and others. Another team is raising funds in the name of Madison Megee, the Ceres girl who is battling brain cancer.

A highlight of the Relay was the Luminaria Ceremony that took place at dusk on Saturday. Stadium lights were turned off at around 9 p.m, as personalized luminaria bags were lit to honor individuals who've survived or lost their battle to cancer.

The Relay ended by 8:30 a.m. on Sunday.

The event was Thornhill's fourth involvement with the Ceres Relay. She got involved with the fundraiser as many of her relatives have battled cancer. She said that her mother took a cancer medication to fight breast cancer which was funded by Relay for Life funds.

Those who wish to donate to the Ceres Relay for Life may still do so by contacting the American Cancer Society at 524-7241.

The American Cancer Society is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by saving lives, diminishing suffering and preventing cancer, through research, education, advocacy and service. Founded in 1913 and with national headquarters in Atlanta, the Society has 14 regional divisions and local offices in 3,400 communities.