The soccer fields transformed into a foundation for tents, booths and supporters on Saturday, April 9, marking the first hour of the 24-hour Relay for Life event.
With 317 registered participants walking and running around a painted track between the soccer and baseball fields at Pierce College, more than $65,000 was raised for the American Cancer Society.
Cancer survivors, volunteers, students, faculty, family and friends were among the contributing participants.
“We realize that there is no answer to cancer,” said Elaine Pacheco, event co-chair of Relay for Life. “This is a way bring everyone together and to feel like you are doing something about it.”
The 24-hour relay is meant to represent that cancer is a never-ending battle and that it does not sleep.
Pacheco, who lost her father to prostate cancer in 2009, has been diligently working with her co-chair, Juliet White, and their committee to have a successful relay.
The event began with opening ceremonies, which included a short speech from President Joy McCaslin and the introduction of District 3 Councilman Dennis P. Zine.
“This is a very important cause and we are very committed to it,” said Zine. “People need to be aware of the impact of cancer and what this is all about is knowledge.”
As Zine spoke at the opening ceremonies about his own journey and learning he did not have cancer after receiving ‘the call,’ others in the audience recalled a different story.
‘The call’ is the scariest thing that cancer patients await for from their doctor.
The outcome of the call was not the same for cancer survivor and former Pierce student, Jim Adlhoch.
Adlhoch, who attended Pierce in the late 1970s, was diagnosed with cancer twice. Most recently, he was told the tumors in his neck were benign.
Throughout his journey, he was so impressed with the American Cancer Society (ACS) and how helpful they were.
“I can give up 24 hours if this will help other people,” said Adlhoch.
As White mentioned in the opening ceremony, the Woodland Hills relay has doubled the amount of registered teams and money raised since its first relay at Pierce just three years ago.
Among the 28 registered teams were some of Pierce’s own clubs. Both the American Sign Language Club and Team Brahma, which included many of Pierce’s student athletes, participated in the day-long event.
The French club was also highly involved with the relay, especially since their faculty advisor is also a cancer survivor.
Sylvie Young, assistant professor of French and faculty advisor for the French Club, was just 24 when she received ‘the call’ and was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
“It all happened in a blur,” said Young. “The cancer was surgically removed. I was lucky it didn’t spread.”
Although Young had a reoccurrence a few years later, she has been cancer-free for 10 years.
Kanny Morgan, member of the French Club, along with 14 other members endured the cold to support the fight against cancer.
“Cancer affects everybody,” said Morgan. “So this is an event that we wanted to be a part of.”
Although the weather forecast predicted rain on Saturday, no drops fell and the sun shined throughout the day of the relay.
There were numerous activities to participate in throughout the day. From soccer to raffles and music playing all night, everyone had something to choose from.
Heading into the night, there was still no rain, but the weather dipped down to 32degrees, according the Los Angeles Pierce College Weather Station.
Although it was cold and dark, the evening was highlighted by the Luminaria Ceremony that featured bags decorated in honor, memory and support of those who have battled cancer.
The word “hope” was lit with candles on the outfield fence. Bags with candles lined the track with personal messages from loved ones showing their support inscribed on them.
“For me, the whole mission of relay is to celebrate the survivors [and] remember the ones that we’ve lost,” said Pacheco.
Sunday morning, the 24-hour relay was over. Closing ceremonies concluded with Pacheco and White thanking all that had attended, including the survivors, committee and a special thanks to Pierce College.
“Pierce College is phenomenal,” said Pacheco. “[Their support] is a huge factor in the success of this relay.”
Pierce faculty showed up to the event and were acknowledged for their efforts and hard work.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn about giving back to the community,” said McCaslin. “We’re delighted to just host it.”
Pierce is already being considered to host next year’s relay.
It is never too late to donate. Please contact www.relayforlife.org/woodlandhillsca if you would like to make a contribution.
For more information, contact the American Cancer Society at 800-ACS-2345 for any additional information.