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Relay raises cash to help battle cancer
Last weekend's 24-hour 7th annual Relay for Life in Ceres raised hopes and an estimated $56,000 for the American Cancer Society's battle against the deadly disease.

The goal of the event, staged at the Ceres High School athletic field, was to raise awareness of cancer and ACS programs as well as raise $69,000. The goal could be met still since monies will continue to be collected through August.

A total of 34 teams numbering between 12 and 24 team members signed up for the effort. The top teams in fundraising this year were Richland Market, Cost Less Foods, ASI and Gambling 4 a Cure.

The event got off to a start with the Ceres Lions Clubs serving of breakfast for cancer survivors. The survivors were offered a free gift package and invited to walk the first lap at 9:15 a.m.

During the opening ceremony, Rosa Pabilla of Ceres spoke about the frightening experience son Julius Diaz as gone through dealing with leukemia at age 2 and regular chemotherapy treatments that have in remission.

"It got to the point that as soon as he seen the animal shrubs outside the hospital he's start crying and wouldn't want to get out of the car," Mrs. Pabilla told the crowd.

After months of treatment at Valley Children's Hospital in Madera, Julius is in remission from acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). She asked others to pray that the leukemia not return.

Older cancer survivors, Dennis and Liz Camp, participated in the first lap. Dennis, 79, has survived colon cancer for five years. Wife Liz, who is 69, has successfully fought two cancers that struck 10 years and 30 years ago. Dennis lost both parents to lung cancer.

"When my husband got colon cancer five years ago, it was a battle," explained Liz Camp. "We're just thankful that we were able to help his parents and then that we survived. I thought I was going to lose my husband with the colon (cancer). He wanted to die. I brought this little kitten home that was dying. I said, 'Here, you both want to die so you can die together.' He got up and started taking care of it. We still have him. His name is 'Rocky' because he was a fighter."

The oldest survivor to walk the first lap was 49-year survivor Antonio Galleia.

The opening ceremony included the release of a dove dyed purple in honor of the hope of victory over cancer that was released and then joined by a flock of white doves. They met over the track and flew together in support of one another.

For 24 hours, team members took turns around the track, either running, walking, wheeling or being pulled. As that was going on, teams were selling food and homemade crafts, and offering raffle baskets. Each booth highlighted a specific cancer and offered literature on that cancer.

The evening brought on the emotional luminaria event, which allowed anyone to decorate a $10 bag in memory of a loved one lit by a candle and placed around the darkened track as each name was read over the loudspeaker.

The Relay closed with a Sunday ceremony at 8 a.m.

Sponsors of the event - chaired by Stella James - were Diamond Bar Arena, Cost Less Foods, Richland Market, the Marie Russo Foundation, Richard "Mr. San Pedro" Korgan, Wise Guys PC Training, Stor-Kwik Self Storage and Central Valley Christian Academy.

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.