Relay for Life brings awareness, support

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Two communities united as one to battle against the giant. Valencia County residents joined together this past weekend during the Los Lunas area Relay for Life to create the biggest relay of its kind.

This year, the Belen and Los Lunas Relay for Life events merged after Belen’s relay chair wasn’t replaced, said the event’s co-chair, Karin Trujillo. The two events brought together more than 350 participants to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Abigail R. Ortiz-News-Bulletin photo: More than 120 survivors kicked off the Los Lunas area Relay for Life by taking the first lap around the track with their caregivers. Organizers said this past weekend’s event was the biggest one yet, since the Belen and Los Lunas relays joined together.

“It’s the biggest relay we’ve had yet,” Trujillo said.

More than 120 survivors kicked off the relay by taking the first lap around the Los Lunas High School baseball field in purple T-shirts with the words, “Life is about celebrations … Today I am celebrating me.”

Participants continued these strides by walking a 24-hour period, spanning from Friday evening until Saturday, to signify the ongoing fight against cancer.

Coordinators set a goal to raise $52,000 and were well on their way to reach that goal with 35 teams raising $32,500 before the event. Teams held fundraisers at the relay, such as volleyball matches, selling homemade goodies and popcorn and offering chair massages. Trujillo said they have until Aug. 31 to raise the funds.

The money raised goes toward research, advocacy, education and service, said Geraldine Esquivel, New Mexico Cancer Society’s senior district executive director.

“This is our life blood. Money raised brings forth our mission,” Esquivel said. “We truly believe that through efforts like this, people can help us finish the fight against cancer.”

Los Lunas resident James Padilla walked in the relay the past eight years, but this year, his motivation for walking was different. Padilla’s father, Dimas, died from lung cancer last year and Padilla promised his father he would continue to walk.

“I did it with him and I promised him I would keep doing it,” Padilla said. “He wouldn’t miss this event.”

Cancer survivors and their caregivers are offered a network of support through this event, said Andrea Hands of Los Lunas.

Los Lunas resident Jennifer DeMerritt said it boosts morale and gives hope.

Loretta Hatch, a Bosque Farms resident, added, “It’s comforting to see a lot of people support this cause, but it’s unfortunate to see so many people are affected by (cancer).”

Twenty-year cancer survivor Cathy Brock said support and love is what aids survivors in fighting the cancer beast.

Urbin Burris said he was inches away from losing his wife and, “by the grace of God and things like this, she’s still here.”


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