By Janet Bresenham
As the sun rose above Ned Houk Park Saturday morning, weary Relay for Life campers drank coffee, ate breakfast and recalled a night spent having fun and honoring cancer survivors, as well as those who lost their valiant fights against the disease.
The Curry County Relay For Life, sponsored by the local chapter of the American Cancer Society, featured 44 teams from Clovis, Cannon Air Force Base and Curry County raising money for cancer research, said CAFB Airman Elizabeth Moore, who served as event chairperson.
“I have many family members who’ve had cancer, so this is very important to me,” said Monica Sanchez, serving her third year as team captain for the 22-member Clovis Community College team, whose motto was “Capturing the Cure for Cancer.”
Sandia Elementary student Chance Morrison, 11, who stayed all night with the Cox Communication “Digital Links” team, said, “I came to help fight cancer. That’s what we’re here for.”
This year’s Curry County Relay For Life raised $44,850 by Saturday afternoon, with more donations expected throughout the week, according to Marcy Anaya, one of the event’s bookkeepers.
The total was down from last year’s Relay For Life, which raised about $48,000 during the all-night campout. In 2001, $68,000 was raised, including post-event contributions, organizers said.
Right up until the Relay For Life ended mid-morning Saturday, many people still were walking and running around the relay path, while others lounged in outdoor camp chairs near the park lake or took down their tents.
“The Relay For Life was real good and entertaining and the weather was cooperative,” said Tech. Sgt. Quinton Weigner, a member of the CAFB Armament Shop’s team. “I just try to support the community, and this is a good cause. We’re all into fitness, too, so this goes along with that.”
Dawan Wells, who was serving breakfast for her Mesa Elementary “Friends Forever” team, said she enjoys the event, in part because of the outdoor setting.
“This is the best; I loved it here,” Wells said. “We had an awesome team, too.”
The morning sunlight shone brightly on the heartfelt messages written on hundreds of white paper bag luminarias that outlined the relay path. Some were for cancer survivors and those battling cancer, such as, “Stay well,” “You’re an inspiration,” “Our prayers are with you” and “Stay strong,” while others were in memory of loved ones who died.
“For me, the part of the Relay For Life that always stands out is the luminarias, especially lighting them everywhere Friday night and realizing how many people’s lives are affected by cancer,” Sanchez said.
Spencer Noia, 11, said his favorite parts of the Relay For Life were listening to his father’s band, The Shadowcasters, and “when the guys dressed up like girls” for the “Miss Relay” Pageant.
Chief Master Sgt. Justus Anderson, stationed at CAFB, won this year’s title of “Miss Relay,” wearing an ensemble that consisted of a long black gown, cowboy boots, a red boa, red lipstick and a blonde wig, Moore said.
By Saturday afternoon’s count, the top fund-raising team turned out to be the Ride For Life team, a group of horse riders who did a trail ride and raffled off a saddle, Anaya said. The team’s estimated total stood about $4,800, but several riders still were expected to bring in more money, she said.
The second-highest total raised by a team was $4,362 from the Clovis News Journal “Freedom Fighters,” Anaya said.