Relay for Life celebrates, remembers

Developing a successful fundraising concept in this economy is tough, but when an organization sticks to its key values and reaches out to the hearts of the people who are directly affected, then participation and donations surge.

So is there anyone out there not affected by cancer?

The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life is organized each summer in several San Luis Obispo County communities.

It celebrates and remembers locals touched by this dreaded disease. The 24-hour walk-rock slumber party raises money to fund research to help find a cure.

This weekend, the second annual Morro Bay relay is being held at Morro Bay High School’s football stadium from 10 a.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday.

When staff partner Deb Jeffers organized the 2009 Morro Bay event, she found several key supporters who became the 2010 committee.

“They are focused on putting on the best relay,” she said. “We’ve doubled the amount of teams. We may not be curing cancer, but we are saving more lives and, in turn, having more birthdays.”

Rabobank sponsors the countywide effort. Larger local teams include El Morro Nazarene Church and First American Title.

Andrea Klipfel, who lost a grandmother, uncle and several friends to cancer, is co-chairing with Virginia Hiramatsu, who lost her husband, brother, sister, mother-in-law and friends.

Teams and volunteers are planning an inspiring event that is also just plain fun — good friends greeting, eating, relaxing and walking the track at the improvised campground in memory of those who have survived and those they’ve lost.

Stay a while or enjoy all 24 hours. Los Osos Kiwanis cooks up a survivor and caretaker breakfast at 9 a.m. before the kick-off lap at 10 a.m. All-day activities include carnival games and music by Trilogy and Red Skunk Jipsee Swing Band. Movies play after dark.

Breast cancer survivor Ruth Ann Angus says an inspirational time to be there is during the luminaria ceremony at 8 p.m.

“Lighted candle bags with memorial pictures of friends and family line the track,” Angus told the Morro Bay Rotary Club, her sponsoring team. “We walk the track together and look for our bags. It is very moving.”

The bags glow throughout the night.

Klipfel and Hiramatsu reported they were ahead of last year’s record with 19 teams, 30 survivors and $14,000 in donations. There is always room for more. Call 473-1748, or visit www.relayforlife.org.

Anyone can show up Saturday, but they need to register for liability reasons, Hiramatsu said. The goal is to raise $25,000. Donations are encouraged but optional.

“There are many cancer survivors in the Morro Bay area,” Jeffers said. “Our purpose is to celebrate, remember and then fight back with cancer research support. We hope all will join us at the relay.”

Contact Judy at 801-1422 or jsalamacha@yahoo.com.