LL Relay for Life teams raise $45,000

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The windy breeze was gusty at times, but it was a welcome relief from the heat during the 2012 Los Lunas Relay For Life celebration Friday.

The overcast skies also lent a shield from the blazing sun to make the Eddie Fulkerson Baseball Field at Los Lunas High School a comfortable setting for the overnight American Cancer Society event.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Cancer survivors walked a lap around the Eddie Fulkerson Baseball Field at Los Lunas High School while supporters lined the circumference to honor them at the 2012 American Cancer Society Relay for Life this weekend.

Over the year, teams were formed to raise money for cancer patients and cancer research and the event is a culmination of those efforts.

Tents and team pavilions formed a crescent around the baseball diamond, and team members continued their fundraising activities with games, selling hand-made support items such as earrings and bracelets, or commercial goods, such as team logo T-shirts, snow cones and other food items.

The Rotary Club of Los Lunas donated a Pendleton blanket with the New Mexico Zia logo for the silent auction.

The annual relay event offers the community the opportunity to honor local cancer survivors, those who are winning their battle against cancer and remember the ones who have lost their battle with cancer.

“My husband’s grandpa died of colon cancer,” said Los Lunas resident Stephanie Duran. “And his auntie is a survivor.”

Their children, Joshua, 6, and Ashley, 4, have a lot of fun every year they come to the event, she said.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Jarales resident Rae Cherry, a two-time breast cancer survivor, was a guest speaker at the 2012 Los Lunas Relay for Life Friday. She has been cancer free for 33 years.

“I just like the thought of raising money for the research center to help people that can be saved,” said her husband, Jason Duran. “It does help. It’s just amazing to see that so many people contribute.”

Jason Duran’s aunt, Anna Duran, has been cancer-free for six years.

Her eyes well up with tears as she speaks about her experience with cancer.

“I’m a survivor,” she said. “But I lost my mom, and I lost my father-in-law. That’s why were all out here. It means the world to us to be able to raise money to help get rid of this terrible disease.”

The teams raised $26,000 even before the event, and the final tally looks to be around $45,000, said Karin Trujillo, co-chairperson of the event, and a Katherine Gallegos Elementary School teacher.

“The biggest thing about Relay (for Life) is it’s a cancer awareness, family-orientated community event,” Trujillo said. “The other thing is the camaraderie that you see here.”

She co-chairs the event with Frank Sherman, and is one of the big engines behind Los Lunas Relay for Life. Trujillo has been involved for more than 17 years, starting with the Socorro Relay for Life.

Three years ago, Trujillo, together with assistant librarian Tina Collister, who is a two-time cancer survivor, started Relay Recess at the school. This year, the elementary school raised $5,100.

“They are fundraising for research,” said Lily Garcia, whose sister-in-law, Mercy Jojola, is the co-captain of the Bus-N-Away Cancer team.

Garcia herself has been diagnosed with cancer and will undergo radiation therapy next month.

“But I’m good — all is good,” Garcia said. “But that’s why it’s important to have organizations like these, because research — that’s why I’m doing so well I think — early detection … everything that is available now, all the new technologies, and they’re not possible unless you raise funds.”

Many of the people who joined teams or have gone to the event to participate in the activities have been touched by cancer themselves, have friends, family, or co-workers who have survived or are battling the disease, or have lost a loved one to cancer.

Ten years ago, Doris Vialpando’s sister, Kitty McLaughlin, was diagnosed with breast cancer, though she is cancer free today.

“It was very difficult to have someone so far away,” said Vialpando. “So these kind of groups are so important. The fact that there were so many support groups there when it was difficult for us to be there for her, it meant a lot.”

Mayor Robert Vialpando spoke during the opening ceremonies and said he lost a friend to cancer last year.

“So, we remember those who have lost the battle, but most of all, I commend all of you for your support of cancer survivors and those who are survivors yourself,” the mayor told the crowd.

One of the guest speakers, Jarales resident Rae Cherry, is a 33-year survivor of cancer. She had breast cancer twice, she said, and it is important to have a good attitude.

“Your support system helps — your family, prayer, everything helps,” Cherry said.

Cherry has the only cancer support group in Valencia County, she said.

“People have the idea that they don’t want to get together with other cancer survivors, that it’s going to be a tear-jerking situation,” she said. “But it’s not really. Everybody there knows what you’re going through and can help you through it.

“When you’re down, they can lift you up,” she said. “If you have a question nobody can answer, they may have an answer because they’ve been through it.”

Cherry’s cancer support group meets at the United Methodist Church on Manzano Expressway. She can be reached at 864-8368 or 550-2679.

The money raised for Relay for Life will go toward research at Sandia Labs and the University of New Mexico, Trujillo said.

Most of the money goes straight to research and lobbying efforts and not to overhead. Very few in the organization are paid, most are volunteers, she said.

“There was just so many people there,” said Triana Kennington. “We got there just as the survivors did their lap and the number of people just kept increasing. The Jazzersize at 2:30 a.m. was full!”

This is the third Los Lunas Relay for Life Alan and Jean Casey have participated in. Jean lost her father to cancer a couple of years ago, and helps register survivors for activities at the event.

“It means something to me, as a Christian, to help people in need,” said Alan Casey. “Sometimes people just need someone to talk to or to listen when they’re going through something like that.”

If you are interested in joining a Relay for Life team next year or have other questions, call Karin Trujillo at 869-0428, or email her at ktrujillo@comcast.net.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.