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Relay reaps good feelings, $86,000
Greater attendance and enthusiasm pushed the fifth annual Ceres Relay for Life held over the weekend beyond the committee goal of raising $83,000 for the American Cancer Society. Sheila Doberenz of the local American Cancer Society office said the Ceres Relay is expected to reap $86,000 to $87,000.

Participants braved cool and breezy weather under sunny skies when the 24-hour relay kicked off Saturday morning.

"I got to tell you it was fabulous despite the horrendous wind," said Doberenz. "When I walked onto that campus at CHS it was in full swing. It was just an atmosphere that something good was happening.

"It was really, really good. A lot of the teams did a lot of off site fundraising. This community was definitely down for Relay for Life."

Co-chair Lem Klein noted there was more teams and more community participation than in past years.

"It was a great relay," said Ceres Relay co-chairman Lem Klein. "There were times the cancer discussions brought out tears but there was a lot of joy because a lot of people have beaten and are beating cancer. It was a fun event. I heard a lot of good things."

The opening ceremony included musical numbers by Richard Dyer, Jessica Aguilar and Rashelle Garrett as well as an inspirational message from Flo Bombela of Ridgecrest who spoke about her daughter's battle with cancer. Bombela explained that she walked her first relay in 2002 after her seven-month-old baby daughter Adriana, developed cancer. Her child lost a kidney and underwent months of chemotherapy but doctors told her that her child would die from cancer. Bombela then called her daughter forward from the crowd, running to wild cheers.

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. Among those in front included Cassandra Sanders who was pushed in her wheelchair by Gino Fontana. Both donned pirate costumes for their "Polly Want a Cure" team. At the back of the line of survivors was Maudie Lamb, whose been cancer free for over 40 years.

"Things are so much different today," said Lamb of cancer treatments. "We've made lots of progress with treatments."

Somewhere in the middle was cancer survivor Brittany Randle of Ceres, who participated in the Relay with her parents, Fred and Kelly Randle on the E.R. Vine & Sons team. Five years ago Brittany's high school life was rocked when doctors diagnosed her with cancer. Brittany has been in full remission and off of medication since January and will be declared cancer-free after five years.

Initially doctors told the then Ceres High School student that treatments weren't successful and that she would never be able to have children if she survived. But in November 2008 Brittany suspected something was wrong and had medical tests performed. A CAT scan revealed that Brittany was four months' pregnant. Fred said when his daughter had her son, Nixon, on July 22, 2009, Brittany's bone marrow started growing again. He shrugged his shoulders after being asked if the baby had the effect of stimulating bone marrow.

Brittany said the experience was scary but that she never gave up hope.

Today she is being a full-time mom and playing soccer again.

The Randles were among those who enjoyed a complimentary breakfast for survivors served up by the Ceres Lions Club between 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.

The Richland Market team raised the most money out of all 41 teams with $10,481 raised. The G-3 Enterprises team raised $10123 and the Grounded for Life raised $7,189. The individual raising the most funds was Susan Pavalakis of the Richland Markets team who raised $3,079.

The theme of this year's Relay was "Creating a World with More Birthdays." 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.

For 24 hours team members took turns walking on the track. Klein said the wind kept things "really cold and a few of the pop up tents got mangled. But people were dancing and walking all night long."