On June 27, Arcadia held its 7th annual Relay for Life at the Santa Anita Racetrack. 531 Relay for Life participants took turns walking and running around the track for 24 hours—from 11 a.m. Saturday to 11 a.m. Sunday. At night, the teams slept in tents pitched around the racetrack. Volunteers provided free food, water, and other basic necessities from pavilions stationed by the track.
The relay began on Saturday morning with the Survivors’ Lap. Cancer survivors and caregivers walked the opening lap to commemorate the progress attained through advancements in the medical field, as well as to signify the ongoing battle with cancer that many Americans face.
At 8 PM, the Luminaria Ceremony was held in remembrance of victims of cancer. Participants placed special luminaria bags—bags filled with sand, lighted by candles, and engraved with the name of a person affected by cancer—around the track to light the way for the walkers. The ceremony honored not only the people who had died of the disease, but those continuing to fight it.
Alwyna Lau, an Arcadia High student whose grandfather passed away from cancer, described the Luminaria Ceremony as an extremely moving experience. “Holding the candle was a really unique feeling,” she said. “It made me realize that even though my grandpa is dead, in spirit he is very much alive.”
This year, 36 teams participated in the Relay for Life. Teams were comprised of volunteers who pledged to donate a specific amount of money for every lap that they completed around the track. Most teams entered the race with a specific monetary goal in mind, which ranged anywhere from a couple hundred to several thousand dollars.
The efforts of Arcadia residents generated over $38,000 for the American Cancer Society, funds that will be used to further cancer research and help treat patients already afflicted with the disease. Team Charlie’s Angels raised the most money during the Relay, with total contributions amounting to $13,865.
The teams that participated in the event included members of the police and fire departments, local bankers from Coldwell and Dilbeck, and Arcadia’s own Rotary Club.
The Relay for Life originated in 1985, when Dr. Gordon Klatt of Tacoma walked for 24 hours to raise money for the American Cancer Society. A quarter of a century later, his efforts have inspired hundreds of cities around the nation to host similar events, helping spread cancer awareness throughout America.
Arcadia’s Relay for Life is held in honor of Charles Gilb, a former mayor and respected city councilman who died of cancer last year.
By Nuria Mathog