Relay for Life sets a new recordBy Bruce Whetten
The American Cancer Society’s 18th Annual Relay for Life took place in Douglas this past weekend at Copper King Stadium. The event is the only 24 hour relay in the state.
At one point Saturday there were over 650 people taking part in the relay and for the second straight year new records were set.
In their preparation meetings Douglas’ Relay for Life Coordinator Cornelia Munoz said officials at the ACS office in Tucson asked her for five new teams this year and she gave them 10 having 34 teams; they asked her to find 20 additional cancer survivors to take part and she gave them 47.
Last year’s financial goal was $20,000 and close to $35,000 was brought in. This year, much to her uncertainty, they asked her to raise $37,000 and as of presstime Mobday that figure was at $40,980 with more money still coming in.
The Relay for Life is an overnight celebration of life, dedicated to current and former cancer patients, their families, care givers and friends. The Relay raises funds to fight cancer while raising awareness about cancer prevention and the programs and services offered by the American Cancer Society.
This year’s theme was “Rings of Hope” coinciding with the 2012 Olympics.
While the Relay is underway, a community party atmosphere is created by team members camping out, enjoying entertainment, food, games and camaraderie.
This year’s event was dedicated to Tony Cortez Rose and Anna Greenberg. Rose, was diagnosed with cancer in July and passed away Sept. 26.
Greenberg is the staff partner assigned to Douglas. Last year while counting money the night of Relay, she mentioned a lump on her thigh. She went to the doctor a couple of weeks later and was diagnosed with a form of sarcoma, underwent surgery and began radiation immediately. While undergoing chemotherapy, it was discovered that the cancer had spread to her lung; surgery and more treatment followed. Two weeks ago, after experiencing a massive headache and vision loss, it was discovered that the cancer had spread to her brain. Greenberg underwent surgery last week and is currently in ICU recuperating.
Rose’s family was on hand all weekend for the event and his sister Margaret and her husband Michael Baldenegro led the final lap holding back tears as they thought of their loved one who is no longer with them.
“It’s been really difficult,” Margaret said after the event. “The one thing that stands out is how many people cared. … You hear so many things about Douglas that it’s not so great but this shows us a different side.”
Baldenegro said between the homecoming game on Friday night and the relay event this past weekend her brother was loved by everyone in this town.
“You never really know how many people are affected by cancer weather it be through a friend or family member,” she said fighting back tears. “It’s all around us and it needs to stop. Tony never gave up hope even though the doctor said it was terminal and no one else should either.”
Prior to the relay former Douglas Police Officer Eddie Valdez learned his colon cancer had returned as a stage two type and he is scheduled for surgery this week in Tucson.
Valdez and his team called Team Red Dawgs were out in force this past weekend showing their support.
“It was really nice because I had family here,” he said. “This is our third year and it means a lot.”
Munoz said afterwards she should not be surprised anymore because Douglas always comes through when it comes to something like this.
“It did get cold but we stuck it out,” she joked. “We put this together is just under three months.”
Despite all the positives that came from this weekend the one negative is that cancer is still there and will not go away.
“Having events like this does give us hope,” Munoz, a cancer survivor herself, said. “We need to keep fighting.”
Ivan McGrew was in charge of the activities and keeping those walking entertained.
“I was in charge of making sure people were still walking even though they may have looked like zombies,” he said. “This is a lot of fun. This is my eighth year doing this and every year it’s always great.”
McGrew said one of the relay participants had her results come in during the event telling her she was now cancer free which brought cheers from those in attendance.
Munoz said Wal-Mart had nine teams in the event and raised close to $22,000. Cochise College followed with $4, 997.82.
The top three individual money raisers were Patrick Hoyack with $1,925.00; Kris Baumgartner with $1,920 and Robert and Connie Munoz with $1,862.00.
Sponsors for this year’s event were: Douglas Unified School District #27, Douglas High School Student Council, DJ Legacy, City of Douglas, Lomeli's Childcare Center, Las Dos Comadres, American Legion Post #11, Ana and Joe, Bojorquez Recycling & Excavating, Chucky Hoyack & Roberto E. Muñoz Families, DjPj and DjFrost, DJ Bobby Z, Gloria Garcia-Mariscal, MD, PC, P. Randall Bays, Robert Anaya, Maddux & Sons, McDonalds of Douglas, Richard Paun and DHS Art Department.