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Walkers share stories, honor lost loved ones

Relay for Life is the signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. These events are like community festivals, with food and entertainment, plus a slumber party.

Morro Bay’s third such relay begins at 10 a.m. on Aug. 10 at Morro Bay High School.

In memory of friends and family surviving, battling or lost to cancer, teams walk for 24 hours. Participants also enjoy local bands and play informational games inspired by creative business partners.

The festivities begin with a Survivor and Caregiver Breakfast March. They end Sunday morning of that weekend with a Fight Back Rally.

“The atmosphere is upbeat,” said Andrea Klipfel, who co-chairs the Morro Bay and Atascadero events with her husband, Kevin. “Everyone is working for the same goal. This year, our theme is ‘Pirates, Arr Yer Tired of Cancer?’ We raised $34,000 last year. We hope to contribute $40,000 in 2011.”

The Klipfels will remember several family members, but Andrea’s friend Donna Van Noy is top on her mind this year. Van Noy lost her 14-year struggle against breast cancer June 1.

“Donna’s friendship was an inspiration I’ll always treasure,” Klipfel said. “She taught me that in extreme adversity, you are tested. Every day, she fought back to live, yet she always had a smile.

“Even at her weakest, she always took calls from cancer patients to help them get through. Three years ago, we started the ‘Friends of Donna Team’ to celebrate her winning spirit.

“My life is not hard compared to Donna’s. The least I can do is help raise funds for research so others don’t have to go through what she did.”

Online Chairwoman Virginia Hiramatsu said participants typically have stories to share as they walk. They are also inspired by surviving speakers such as Los Osan Ruth Ann Angus, who is celebrating remission.

Heather Caudill, ACS Senior Relay Manager, is inspired by her brother’s remission from stage II multiple myeloma. He was treated with Revilimid, a new drug researched with funds generated through Relays.

Klipfel added, “It’s not too late to form a walking team or come out for a FitnessWorks Zumba class. We’d love more businesses to join us or offer prizes for the silent auction.”

Caudill explained that donations such as the purchase of $10 personalized luminaria memorials helps provide local services.

“Ladies learn to style their wigs at the Look Good, Feel Better Program,” she said. By calling 1-800-ACS-2345, volunteer drivers will take patients to their treatments or nutritionist. If patients travel out of county, there’s a gas card program to offset their expenses, and we have a call-back program to help any way we can.”

Registration information is at www.relayforlife.org/morrobayca, and Chris Morrison can help form teams. Call 674-3422.

Reach Judy Salamacha at judysalamacha@gmail.com or 801-1422.

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