Community catches ‘relay fever’

Edwin and Delia Diaz walk during Relay For Life held at

Annual Relay for Life celebrates, remembers and raises funds to
fight cancer
Gilroy – The fight against cancer is never a one-man battle so it is fitting that Gilroy’s annual Relay For Life fundraiser revolves around team efforts. Each year Gilroyans put together teams for a 24-hour walk/run to celebrate survivors, remember casualties and raise money and awareness.

Gilroy’s Black Bear Diner is getting in on the Relay For Life with their second “Walk Like a Bear” campaign this week. The restaurant will donate 20 percent of all proceeds Thursday from the Gilroy, Salinas and Carmel locations. San Jose Sharkie, the mascot for the San Jose Sharks, also will make a special appearance at the restaurant between 6:30 and 7:30pm.

While the diner is busy raising money, Laken Leonard, 11, is busy as well. With her parent’s support, the Santa Nella middle schooler, whose grandmother lives in Gilroy, has raised $1,572 with her 12-member troop.

“I wanted to be a team captain because my grandpa died of cancer,” said Leonard. “I wanted to help raise money so other people don’t lose their family members.”

Gabriel Nino, the chair of Gilroy’s Relay For Life committee, is just as fired up as young Leonard. Nino walked in Gilroy’s first Relay For Life eight years ago.

“My wife volunteered me,” said Nino. “I didn’t know anything about it.”

By the end, Nino made a commitment to be involved with the Relay For Life as long as he can. When a staff member from the American Cancer Society approached him to become chair of the committee three years ago, Nino felt he had to do it.

“The day I was asked, my cousin died of cancer that morning, at the age of 32,” Nino said.

As chair, he has tried to increase the number of teams involved each year and the amount of money raised. In 2004, 58 teams partook in the event and raised $180,000. He hopes to have 75 teams this year and aims to raise $200,000.

“Relay For Life is what the community makes it,” said Nino. “The Gilroy community has really got the relay fever.”

Gilroy’s Relay For Life is from 10am June 18, to 10am June 19, at Christmas Hill Park. For more information, e-mail [email protected] or call 879-1032.

For more information on Black Bear Diner’s June 2 “Walk Like A Bear” campaign, call 842-9901.

Melissa Flores is an intern who graduated in May from the University of California, Los Angeles. Reach her at 842-1526 or at [email protected]

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