Walking & running against cancer

DELAINEY ZUNIGA, age three, is recovering and doing well after a bout with blood cancer. The granddaughter of Jolaine and Wes Beers (he’s a former West Sacramento mayor), Delainey helped lead a “survivors’ lap” at the Relay for Life on Saturday morning.

Photo courtesy of Debbie Norton-Johnson

Roughly 600 people descended on the track at River City High School over a 24-hour period during the weekend for a “Relay For Life” fundraiser against cancer.

Teams of walkers and runners raised pledge money for the American Cancer Society. Then they took turns on the track, making sure a team member was logging miles for the whole 24-hour stretch from 9 a.m. Saturday to 9 a.m. Sunday.

“There were opening ceremonies at 9 a.m., the survivors take their lap, the caregivers come out to walk with the survivors, and then one of each team comes out and walks, taking turns for the whole night,” said Kelly Rochester, one of the local event’s organizers. “It was really a celebration of the survivors – and of the ones who didn’t make it.”

It was the first “Relay for Life” to be held in West Sacramento.

“The American Cancer Society goal for a ‘baby’ relay is $25,000,” reported Rochester. “We decided as a committee to go for $30,000. We hit about $62,000 – maybe in the end, it will be about $65,000, because I’ve got about $200 more to turn in, and others have small amounts to turn in here and there, too.”

MARISSA HODGE and HEIDI KELSON form “Team Zumba Fitness at the Clubhouse” are groovy and ready for the “hippie lap” around the RCHS track.

Photo courtesy of Heidi Kelso

Shelby Kelso, age eight, successfully Hula-Hoops her way around an entire lap of the track — the only person who did so during the ‘Hula Hoop Lap.’ Shelby remained at the event for 16 hours.

Photo courtesy of Heidi Kelso

Rochester is one of the owners of “All Phase Security” in West Sacramento, and considers herself a “lifer” in the town. She said she knew “probably 80 percent” of the participants in the relay.

The West Sacramento version of the national “Relay for Life” event grew from a little meeting of the hearts over the Internet about nine or ten months ago, she said.

“One of my friends I had grown up with had posted a ‘bioluminary’ – you write a memory and light a (virtual) candle. She had lost a brother to cancer, and I had lost a brother. She put me in touch with Julie Huber. From Julie Huber’s living room meetings, we then got the city on board – the rec team – and we started having meetings at the boathouse out at Bridgeway Lakes. We ended up with 18 or 20 committee chairpeople.”

Huber became the biggest individual fundraiser at the relay, bringing in $3,000.

The American Cancer Society provides staff support to the event.

Resident Debbie Norton-Johnson was part of the “Zumba at the Clubhouse” team.”

“We won the ‘spirit’ award,” said Norton-Johnson. “We did zumba about six times during the 24-hour period. Zumba is a kind of aerobic-style exercise program set to Latin music. We had about ten people on our team. Every team can have as many as 15 people.”

Cancer survivor Jennifer Sandoval with Maria Jimenez of Team Zumba Fitness

Photo courtesy of Heidi Kelso

There was some variety during the walk.

“Every lap has a theme,” reported Norton-Johnson. “You’re supposed to hula-hoop around the track for one lap. For another lap, you’re supposed to dress as a hippie.”

Will “Relay for Life” return next year?

“There will be a next year,” answered Rochester, without hesitation.

For more information, locals can visit the website www.relayforlife.org/westsacramentoca, or keep an eye out for the organizers’ upcoming meeting.

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