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Steamy Relay for Life earns $70,651
Despite triple-digit temperatures, hundreds of volunteers took turns walking around the Ceres High School track to raise money for cancer research and cancer awareness this past weekend.

Organized by the American Cancer Society, Ceres' third annual event raised $70,651.38.

"We almost doubled what we did last year in fundraising," noted Ceres Relay For Life Chairperson Jill Hunt.

Approximately 29 teams participated in the walkathon between 8 a.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday. Each team had 12 to 24 people. Each member had to raise a minimum of $100.

The event grew from the 23 teams that signed up last year.

Survivors of cancer were treated to a breakfast courtesy of Richland Markets and cooked by the Ceres Lions Club. They were also invited to walk the first lap of the 24-hour relay as part of the opening ceremonies.

Janet Shipley of Ceres was inspired to form a team through her recent battle against cancer. The 41-year-old former waitress was diagnosed with lung cancer in April 2007 and was told she wouldn't live to see Christmas. She credits her remission to a unconventional method: black salve.

"I'm blessed," said Shipley, who formed a team with 24 friends to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

H&R Block of Patterson was the top earning team at over $6,000. The top money raising individual was Heidi Pedrioli of the Noah's Ark team. Pedrioli raised the funds by hosting a yard sale and a fundraiser at Chevy's in Modesto. The Ceres woman also earned $780 by "flocking" friends' yards at a rate of 12 yards per week for six weeks. Flocking involves sneaking into a yard to plant pink plastic flamingos with a note to call to have them removed - for a donation.

Her team raised money in the name of Noah Alan Philpott, 6, a former Modesto boy who is battling leukemia. Pedrioli also had a loved one in mind: She lost her mother, Anita Pedrioli, to cancer in 2003.

"It's very personal," she said. "Everybody has a personal story."

The downside to the event was the extreme heat, which dampened attendance.

"It was bad," said Hunt. "The numbers of people out at campsites were down."

The Relay was also competing with the Hughson Fruit and Nut Festival and the Oakdale Chocolate Festival. Attendance at the Hughson event was also down.

Hunt was involved in the Modesto Relay for Life for five years before the Ceres relay started in 2006. Both of Hunt's in-laws died of cancer.

The Relay for Life ran 24 hours with the requirement that at least one team member be walking on the track at any given time. Members signed up for half-hour increments and were allowed to walk, run or be wheeled in a wheelchair.

Perhaps the most emotional aspect of the relay, said Hunt, was the luminarie ceremony where persons honored a loved one who was claimed by cancer. The event featured the lighting of candles, the reading of poems and playing of special music and the reading of names of cancer victims.

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.