Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

June 21, 2005 > Run of a lifetime

Run of a lifetime

by Florence Ion

Six years ago, Lirio Gonzalez's mother was diagnosed with colon cancer. Labeled as a "man's disease," she had not been tested for the disease and by the time symptoms made her illness obvious, it was too late for effective treatment. Looking for a way to help others who might be saved, Lirio has signed up for the Tri-City Relay for Life event, a jog and walk-a-thon, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. "I couldn't do anything to save my mother," Gonzalez said, "but I can do something to save others."

Gonzalez first became aware of Relay for Life during a meeting of "Groovy Tuesday," a business club meeting of Fremont's Chamber of Commerce. She immediately found sponsors and convinced the other 12 members of her group to participate in this summer's event. Gonzalez has designated her funds toward the fight against colon cancer.

Relay for Life, a 24-hour event, is the largest nonprofit fundraising event in the world. It takes place on various dates at different locations in the Bay Area and around the world from May through August. The event started over 15 years ago when Dr. Gordon Klatt circled a track for 24 hours. His efforts raised $27,000 and Relay for Life was born. Relay for Life celebrates survivors and remembers those lost to the disease while raising funds for research, advocacy and patient services.

Nesly Moquette, a Relay for Life volunteer and cancer survivor, spoke of the variety of activities for participants throughout the Relay including a "survivor's tent" where she will be working during the day. A program for cancer survivors - any form of cancer - will consist of several well-known speakers including a talk by a Washington Hospital lymphedema therapist who will discuss lymphatic system management following loss of lymph glands and a new exercise program to help lymphatic circulation following cancer treatment. Additional speakers will discuss a variety of coping and healing techniques that use the best of Eastern and Western medical knowledge.

Cancer survivors are invited to take part in a "Survivor's Lap" to begin the Relay while others cheer them on. During the event, teams set-up camp at a local school, park or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event "because cancer never sleeps."

Another inspirational part of the Relay is the Luminary Ceremony that honors cancer survivors and those who have lost their battle with the disease. At dusk, luminaries - lighted candles in weighted paper bags - will light the track. Each luminary bears the name of a person who has battled cancer. They burn into the night and light the way for walkers -- creating a path of hope. Luminaries on the sidelines spell the word "HOPE," as inspiration for those who are determined to capture the ultimate prize - lives free of cancer.

"I'll be doing it for all 24 hours," Gonzalez proudly said. Her team has designated shifts, allowing each member to rest, ensuring that even as dawn breaks, one of them will be on the track.

Over 4,200 communities host relay for Life across the country. In California 138 communities have joined the Relay circuit and raised over 23.7 million dollars. Last year the Tri-City area raised over $109,000. This year's goal is $150,000.

Teams are formed with between 8 and 15 friends or associates that contribute to the American Cancer Society individually and collectively. Many groups have a theme, decorate their camping site and wear colorful costumes throughout the Relay and for special laps such as the "crazy hat lap" and a "pajama lap."

Activities, contests and prizes, ceremonies and entertainment are all part of festivities that span all 24 hours; even a special "Kid's Camp" for young children. The public is invited to attend at any time and support Relay for Life by cheering for participants, visiting information booths, buying a luminary or donating to American Cancer Society.

For more information about Relay for Life, contact Cathy Norvell at (510) 429-1567 or Toni Charlop at (408) 504-8924 or go straight to and Join the Fight! The American Cancer Society can be reached at (800) ACS-2345 or by visiting

Milpitas Sports Center will host Relay for Life on Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25.
Relay for Life
Saturday, June 25- Sunday, June 26
9 a.m. (Sat) - 9 a.m. (Sun)
Newark Memorial High School
39375 Cedar Blvd., Newark
(510) 429-1567

Relay for Life
6 p.m. (Fri) - 10 a.m. (Sat)
Milpitas Sports Center
1325 E Calaveras Blvd., Milpitas
(408) 879-1032

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