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June 19, 2007 > Fighting the good fight: Relay For Life returns

Fighting the good fight: Relay For Life returns

By Julie Grabowski

Milpitas will lead off a series of greater Tri-City races that include everyone; young and old, short and tall, whatever color, ethnicity, or location on the globe. It is only during this brief time, when joining together to form a "relay" that this race recognizes boundaries. And, it is only during these fleeting hours that the focus is divided by city. This race is with killers that lurk in the shadows of our bodies, known under the common name of "cancer." Bathed in the light of knowledge, advances in medical techniques and research offer hope and success for those affected, driving cancer into retreat.

Cancer affects one out of every three lives. In the face of this harsh reality Relay For Life continues to be undaunted, putting up its own powerful numbers. Relay For Life will be held in over 23 countries worldwide this year, with more than 3.5 million Americans participating in 4,800 community events across the nation. It has the distinction of being the largest fundraising event in history and has raised $1.9 billion since its inception in 1985, a remarkable record of dedication, passion, and empowerment.

For those unfamiliar with Relay For Life, it is a 24-hour event during which teams comprised of friends, family, companies, and co-workers continuously circle a track in order to raise funds for the American Cancer Society (ACS). ACS provides support, answers and inspiration through programs and services, and is dedicated to cancer research to find a cure. But Relay For Life is not only about money. It is an event to find comfort, strength, hope, and healing; a celebration of those who have triumphed over cancer, a time to remember and honor those lost, and to encourage and uplift those currently in the fight.

Among the event highlights are the opening Survivors Lap, and a Ceremony of Hope after the sun goes down when luminarias are lighted in tribute to those who have experienced cancer in their lives. Luminarias line the track and burn throughout the night as at least one member of each team is present on the track at all times, representing the fact that cancer never sleeps. Music, food, games and entertainment add fuel to the event, making Relay an enjoyable as well as beneficial party.

For Mary Greppi, Relay For Life is a must-do every year. Greppi first got involved nine years ago as a team member with the American Business Women's Association. Her interest was high from the start due to the number of people in her life with cancer. "It's definitely something that's hit my family," says Greppi, who lost her father and father-in-law to the disease, and whose brother was recently diagnosed with bladder cancer. "It makes it really come home to you.." Greppi's conviction and passion have led to increased involvement over the years, and she is currently serving as event co-chair for Fremont's first independent Relay on June 30. She will also be on the track with her team from the Men's Warehouse where she works as a lease administrator.

Greppi says her brother is benefiting from new treatments that were not in existence when she first started with Relay. She believes they are a direct result of fundraising through Relay For Life. Seeing such strides and impact in the cancer battle keep Greppi dedicated. "Each year I want to do more," she says, with the hopes that neither she nor any more of her family members will have to fight the disease.

Patricia Chell is experiencing the power of Relay for the first time. Both of her parents were recently diagnosed within a few months of each other. "For 42 years I was able to say, 'No, cancer does not run in my family.' Now, when I fill out a family history, I have to check the 'C' box," says Chell. At a Newark Chamber of Commerce gathering she met Emily LeDeau, ACS manager of four local Relay events. As a person who likes to take every possible action when faced with adversity, Chell quickly signed on as a team recruiter for Newark's first independent Relay For Life event, as well as establishing a friends and family team with her sister.

Among the many attributes of Relay For Life, two stood out to Chell: the fact that "one fundraiser fits all cancers" with no need to pick and choose what to support, and that the event is fun. The campout aspect recalls past camping trips when her family met people and made lasting friendships. To Chell, the participants are one of the great rewards of being involved, discovering that those you meet are people you would choose as friends. Chell also sees building teamwork in the community as another important benefit. And Relay is for all ages and giving abilities. When her young niece was asked what she was going to do with her $3 from the tooth fairy, she promptly responded that she was going to put it in the Relay can. "Everybody can do something - a dollar, sand for the luminarias," says Chell. "Everybody can contribute and everybody can gain."

Both of Chell's parents are doing well and she attributes that to early detection. This is even more important since her mother is the caregiver of Chell's 93-year-old grandmother. Chell states that she will be involved with Relay for the long haul and already has a goal for next year: to be able to raffle off a new car donated by a local dealership.

Relay for Life would not be possible without sponsors, especially the California School for the Deaf for donating the use of their track for the Fremont event, as well as all the volunteers and teams for their efforts. Pre-registration is encouraged for those still wishing to participate, but you can sign up at the event. It's not too late to be a part of Relay For Life-sign up for a team, walk as a cancer survivor, volunteer to help with set up, registration, or clean up, make a donation or purchase a luminaria.

"One day. One night. One community."

Join the fight today to create a cure for tomorrow.

For more information on local Relay events contact Emily LeDeau at (650) 773-7922. More about Relay For Life can be learned at For cancer support or information 24 hours a day call 1-800-ACS-2345, or visit

Relay For Life Milpitas
Friday, June 22 - Saturday, June 23
6 p.m.-10 a.m.
Milpitas Sports Center
1325 E. Calaveras Blvd., Milpitas

Relay For Life Fremont
Saturday, June 30 - Sunday, July1
10 a.m.-10 a.m.
California School for the Deaf
39350 Gallaudet Dr., Fremont

Relay For Life Newark
Saturday, July 21 - Sunday, July 22
10 a.m.-10 a.m.
Silliman Activity Center
6800 Mowry Ave., Newark
(650) 773-7922

Union City Relay For Life
Saturday, August 4 - Sunday, August 5
10 a.m.-10 a.m.
James Logan High School
1800 H Street, Union City

Relay For Life Hayward
Saturday, August 18 - Sunday, August 19
10 a.m.-10 a.m.
Tennyson High School
27035 Whitman Street, Hayward

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