– Almost 700 people invaded Community Park for 24 hours last
weekend – raising nearly double their $80,000 goal – to support the
American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
MORGAN HILL – Almost 700 people invaded Community Park for 24 hours last weekend – raising nearly double their $80,000 goal – to support the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

“We are well over $147,000,” event Chairwoman Ingrid Wafelbakker said Monday. “There are still donations outstanding, (corporate) matching gifts, so we may well double our goal when everything has been counted.”

The first-time event, orchestrated by 20 volunteers led by Wafelbakker, kicked off at 10 a.m. Saturday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony by Councilman Larry Carr and a welcoming speech by cancer survivor Gary Seiden.

Ninety cancer survivors, wearing signature “Survivors Shine” yellow T-shirts, led the opening lap of the relay walk.

Forty-one teams, made up of friends, families, co-workers and school groups, kept at least one team member walking on the track during the entire 24 hours of the event.

Some walkers strolled leisurely, talking with team members and friends, while others set a blistering pace.

Each team donated $150 to register for the event, and each team member was responsible for raising at least $100.

“It was such a special day,” Wafelbakker said. “And the response from the community was overwhelming.”

Wafelbakker said local restaurants donated food for relay participants and Jet Electric workers volunteered their time to be on hand for the entire event.

The relay was so successful, Wafelbakker said, that another one will be organized for next year. Compared to other relays in the area, she said, it was much better than expected.

“It was totally awesome,” she said. “We think it will be the same time frame for the next one. This is a good time of year for it. Gilroy does theirs in June, so we don’t want to be too close to that, and if we do it later in the summer, people may be on vacation, it may be too hot. This worked out for us this year.”

Besides their solicited donations, walkers raised money in other ways the day of the event. A hair salon charged for braiding hair into creative styles, a skin care salon offered massages, teams sold baked goods, bubble blowing liquid and flats of flowers. Proceeds from the sales benefit the American Cancer Society.

Health information was presented throughout the day: cooking healthy-but-tasty demonstrations and how to check for breast cancer were several of the programs offered. A bone marrow donation screening test also took place.

“There’s something for everyone,” said participant Laura Guido. “It’s going to be fun, and of course it’s a great cause.”

Tents of various sizes and colors decorated the inside of the track, set up by the teams to store sleeping bags for those who stayed during the entire event, to offer shade from the sun and protection from the occasional rain showers and to provide a place for the food that many teams brought.

“These teams seemed so organized,” Wafelbakker said. “They came prepared to stay. And they took it very seriously. I had thought we might see only a few people on the track at night. But they were there, relieving each other when their shifts were over.”

Adding to the novelty of walking while most of the community is sleeping were the approximately 1500 luminarias in memory of cancer victims and survivors.

“They burned from 8:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.,” said Wafelbakker. “I think we were all touched by the sight.”

To register a team for Gilroy’s Relay for Life, to be held June 21-22 at Gilroy High School, call 842-1733. For more information about the American Cancer Society or to make a donation, call 800-442-2992.

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