Relay for Life helps the fight against cancer

18th annual event brought in more than $100,000 in donations
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Relay for Life in Hollister, kicked off this year's two-day American Cancer Society fundraising event on Friday, July 28 with an opening ceremony as decorated luminaria bags lined around the track of San Benito High School. Written on the front of each bag were either the name of a cancer survivor or of a loved one that had passed away from cancer.

The signature event for the cancer society takes place in 5,200 communities in 27 countries. Its goal is to "bring communities together to remember loved ones lost, honor survivors of all cancers, and raise money to help the American Cancer Society make a global impact on cancer," according to the national website.

In celebration or in memory of people who have battled cancer, families and friends gathered together for this two-day event, organized by Relay for Life in San Benito County. In the week prior to the event, purple ribbons adorned trees and poles throughout downtown Hollister.

“$2.3 million have been raised in Hollister up to this year's event” since its inception 18 years ago, said Hollister’s Relay for Life Co-chairman, Chuck Obeso-Bradley, a cancer survivor himself.  “Our community needs to give themselves a pat on the back with all the support they have given to this event. We are hoping to reach this year's goal of $110,000.”  

From the beginning, the Hollister relay has been held at Andy Hardin Field at the high school. Next year's relay event will be at an as-yet-undetermined new location, Obeso-Bradley said, due to planned construction of a new stadium. Relay organizers remain hopeful about the future of the event that gives people an opportunity to share their personal or family triumphs and tragedies.  

In 2007, Obeso-Bradley was diagnosed with throat cancer.  Even though he had been active in this event prior to his diagnosis, he said, “The event really changed for me.”  For the first time, 10 years ago, he had a luminaria bag made in his honor. His participation and dedication took on a whole new meaning, as the fight against cancer is not just for the one who is battling with the disease, but it is one the entire family goes through.

Diana Price, worked along side Obeso-Bradley, as co-chair of this year's event, is also a survivor, having won her battle against breast cancer, which claimed her mom and aunt. 

Halfway through her pregnancy, with her fourth child on the way, Amie Persijn was diagnosed in 2015 with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, prompting the “Fighting with Amie” effort. The young mother went through six rounds of chemotherapy during that time. Her leg doubled in size, and doctors had found a large mass that caused her femur to fracture.  Persijn had to undergo surgery on her leg to have a metal rod inserted. Because of her pregnancy, she was not allowed to have any drugs for the surgery, so she remained awake during her operation. 

Today, she is cancer free and sharing a normal, active life with her family.

Maria Elena Gonzales, a first-time participant in the event and a cancer survivor, celebrated with Team Tata. After her husband, Manuel Gonzales, passed away 2-1/2 yrs ago from cancer, she decided to take part in a placebo group study in which researchers gathered more information about this disease. Her courage and support for helping to find a cure, put her along with the other group of participants at risk of getting this disease. Knowing this before hand, she still went ahead with the cancer group study and did develop the disease. She now celebrates her recovery by wearing the color purple.

Dana Mills, team captain of the Casillas Garner Family team, explained her support of the event: “The goal is to get more of the community out and hear some of the stories being told, bring awareness, and walk the track.”

This year's relay brought in an estimated $105,000 through the weekend, and donations are still coming in. “What’s great," says Obeso-Bradley, "is that we have until the end of August for all the sponsors and donors to contribute for the relay in our community.”

For more information on the Hollister Relay For Life, including its history, shared stories, or to donate or participate in a relay, click here.

The local Relay for Life Facebook page can be accessed here.


Bernadine Belaski-McGee

Bernadine Belaski-McGee is a freelance photographer and graphic designer. She is a part-time city employee at Carl Martin Luck Memorial Library in San Juan Bautista. Her passion includes fine art photography, writing, creating fun educational programs and planning events.