Clayton’s annual Relay For Life helps stomp out cancer

By Pamela Wiesendanger on August 25, 2014

Relay for Life_9319_for websiteMore than 1.6 million. That’s the number of new cancer diagnoses expected in 2014. So nearly 300 walkers put their feet down to reduce or eliminate that number altogether at Clayton’s American Cancer Society Relay For Life, held Aug. 16 and 17 at the new venue of Clayton Valley Charter High School.
The annual event raised more than $80,000, exceeding the goal of $75,000.
Relay For Life draws cancer patients, survivors, friends and family for a 24-hour walk-a-thon.
“I never thought I’d be standing here watching one of my friends,” said Shelley Harrison as her friend, Clayton’s Tracy Rivas, walked the track. Rivas is battling Stage 4 colon cancer. Rivas’ team, The Pink Party Posse, was formed in the hospital on the day Rivas had surgery related to her diagnosis in December.
Rivas is in remission, meaning she shows no signs of new cancer growth. “I have an incredible group of friends. They really rally around me.”
Teams and individual participants walked to celebrate cancer survivors, remember loved ones lost to the disease and fight back with a commitment to take cancer prevention measures themselves.
Team Christy returned to make laps with the cardboard likeness of Christy Harris, who lost her fight against cancer after the 2013 Relay. Two of the original teams from the first Relay in Clayton in 2011 were back, Campers for a Cure and St. John’s Cancer Crusaders.
Sydney Alcock, team caption for Campers, and her father, Mike Fossan, are the event chairs for Clayton’s Relay in 2015. Mike and his wife, Susan, are both cancer survivors, and they cheered on as Grandson Tristan was recognized for his outstanding help and participation as one of the younger walkers at the event.
Many new teams joined the mix, including the Gamma Girls, a philanthropic sorority with local members.
Despite the success of the event, reactions were mixed about the new location of the Relay this year. It moved from Clayton Community Park to Gonsalves Stadium at CVCHS to accommodate more participants. Many felt the more expansive setting made it less intimate and not conducive to creating a strong connection with other walkers.
There were technical problems as well, as challenges prevented the lighting from being dimmed during the Luminaria ceremony, casting a harsh glare on the solemn tribute.
David Linzey, executive director of the school, says the current construction on campus will be done well before next year’s event. “I’m so happy to be hosting. I hope we’ll be the home for many years to come.”
Kealoha Pomerantz, the Relay For Life specialist at American Cancer Society, says she will gather feedback and help “grow the event” for next year. This year, she says, “went amazingly well.”
The Relay begins with cancer survivors proudly walking the first or “Celebrate” lap of the Relay after opening ceremonies. Teams joined them one by one as they were announced. Many teams had tents along the route to sell refreshments and crafts. Organizers also held a raffle, which added to Clayton’s total donations. The Salvation Army Canteen was on hand to offer three free meals, and Magic Entertainment DJ Services provided music.
Teams walked hand-in-hand around the track in silence during the Luminaria/Remember ceremony after dark. Because “cancer never sleeps,” the march continued on the through the night.
The dawn of a new day and the words of three-time cancer survivor Cathy Vincent brought hope after the final lap as part of the Fight Back ceremony. “Hope binds us together,” Vincent said. “I challenge you to make a year-round commitment to fight cancer. Too many birthdays have not been celebrated.”
Relay For Life was founded in 1985 by Dr. Gordy Klatt, who died on Aug. 3 from heart failure while fighting stomach cancer. In four years, Clayton has raised more than $175,000 to support the American Cancer Society’s efforts in finding a cure for cancer, caring for those battling the disease, supporting caregivers and educating the community. Event chair Mindy Thompson closed the Relay by encouraging the crowd to “Be the change.”
Donations will be accepted through Aug. 31. For more information or to donate, go to

Previous post:

Next post: