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Relay for Life remembers victims

Event celebrates cancer survivors, raises funds to benefit Amercan Cancer Society

Posted: May 30, 2009 8:29 p.m.
Updated: May 31, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Five-year breast cancer survivor Jan Murphy, left, walks arm in arm with her daughter Shauna, 17, as they join thousands who walked to eradicate cancer as part of the 24-hour Relay for Life event at Central Park in Saugus on Saturday.

 
Teams of cancer warriors completed 24 hours of continuous walking at 9 a.m. today in remembrance of Santa Clarita Valley cancer victims and in celebration of those who have beaten their disease.

A large crowd of cancer survivors kicked off the 10th annual Santa Clarita Valley Relay for Life Saturday morning as they took a Survivor Lap around a grassy track at Central Park in Saugus.

They marched under more than a dozen flying white doves symbolizing hope and amidst applause for their supporters on the sidelines.

“The best part of this whole event is you come here and see these faces you saw last year and you say, ‘Thank God,’” said Chan Peach, a 69-year-old prostate cancer survivor from Canyon Country, after he completed the Survivor Lap for his eighth year.

Grace Elliott, 57, of Saugus, has also walked many survivor laps in past relays and has been told she is a walking miracle.

“It’s really invigorating — to look and see all the survivors and see all the support,” said Elliott, who defeated breast and cervical cancer and survived a bone marrow transplant. “We’re here because we get so much support from our loved ones. We’re basically alive because of all the support.”

Relay teams representing organizations, schools, businesses, churches, hospitals and much more from all over Santa Clarita Valley took a team lap which kicked off their 24 hours of walking.

John Fortman, chairman of the 2009 Relay, said 140 teams were participating in this year’s event, which was an impressive boost from last year’s number of just over 100. Participation requires that one person from each team be on the track in relay — for the full 24 hours or the event. “The reason for that is because cancer never sleeps,” Fortman said.

Teams came prepared to stay the course all night and many had tents pitched behind their respective booths. The Paseo Club, of Valencia, set up their team booth — “Save the balls” — in an effort to bring awareness about testicular cancer.

“One of our club members was diagnosed with testicular cancer — our team is in honor of him,” said Tamara Dowling, team captain.
As of Saturday, the team had raised $8,000 for the cause and planned to raise $2,000 more. Last year, the event raised $560,028 to benefit the American Cancer Society with funding for cancer patients in the SCV and for research.

This year Fortman said the goal was to raise $600,000.

Team booths grabbed the attention of those walking by games such as “Flush away Cancer,” where participants could throw a toilet paper roll into a toilet bowl from a distance and win a prize.

Some teams raffled off gifts while others sold items such as breast cancer awareness T-shirts and candles.

Team Trevor gave away leis with a picture of Trevor Matthews, who died at age 15 from squamous cell carcinoma, and informational packets on living a healthy life. “Trevor was my son,” said Mark Matthews, of Valencia. “He passed away in January 2007 from a very rare form of cancer. We (participate) to honor Trevor and to remember him, in hopes that someday a cure will be found so other kids wouldn’t have to suffer like Trevor did.”

Although Houston Armstrong and Scott Jenkins, both of Valencia, never met Trevor, they walked around the track for two hours Saturday to support his family and other cancer victims.

“I’ve never been to anything like this,” Jenkins, 19, said. “When I came I felt something different — it was uplifting and inspirational.”

Team Alpha Omega’s Heidi and Richard Mace, of Stevenson Ranch, made their way around the track for numerous family members and friends who have been diagnosed with prostate and ovarian cancer. “My dad can’t really walk — we feel like we’re walking for him,” Heidi Mace said. Her father was diagnosed with gastric and esophageal cancer in October 2007. “He hasn’t been able to do a lap on his own.”

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