Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Members of Galaxy Dance Academy and All About Dance take a lap together during Relay For Life on Saturday.
Tents and booths decked in purple could be found all across the Industrial Avenue side of Town and Country Park for Madera’s 20th annual Relay For Life.
“They will not be alone. We will fight this disease,” said Madera Mayor Andy Medellin at the start of the event. “We will fight it together.”
The May 6-7 relay raised money for the American Cancer Society.
Walkers, ranging from cancer survivors and caregivers to family and volunteers, participated in the hundreds, broken into dozens of teams. In 20 years of the relay, Madera has raised more than $1 million for the cancer society.
“A great deal of the reason for the improvements to treatment, support, early detection and research is the direct result of the American Cancer Society,” said Madera Parks and Community Services director Mary Anne Seay, “and what you folks are doing out here today.”
Seay, who has walked in Relay For Life for the last 10 years, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, and walked her first Survivor’s Lap in 2015. Her grandmother also had breast cancer. According to Seay, she had been active before having cancer, but the impact of the American Cancer Society hit home when she received a gift from them during her treatment.
“When I received a knit cap for my bald head ... I understood Relay in such a different and deeply personal way,” Seay said. “It was this real, tangible, soft thing that reminded me of all people who spend hours and hours and hours to support their families, to support the community, and to support people with cancer in big ways and small ways.”
The Relay For Life was also marked at James Monroe Elementary School on Friday, when the campus celebrated more than $4,000 raised through flower sales and donations. The children of Monroe, along with their teachers and staff, were thanked by several dignitaries from Madera, including Madera’s executive director of Neighborhood Revitalization, and cancer survivor, Jim Taubert.
“I’ve been coming to Monroe for Relay For Life for nine years,” Taubert said, “and it’s never meant as much to me as it does now.”
Taubert, who won his bout with nasopharyngeal cancer, also brought his mask to show show the children. The mask, he stated, was used to bolt him in place while he received radiation treatment.
Monroe Elementary, however, marked its own struggle with cancer, having lost three people who had worked there: 2nd grade teacher Virginia Luna, special education aid Sharon Harlow and Madera Unified School District academic coach Ana Rieping, over the course of the last year.
“Whether or not we’re able to cure cancer in our lifetime, who knows, but I sure hope we can because it’s really a terrible disease,” Taubert said. “But what they are able to do in terms of the cure is unbelievable.”