Survivors run SMC track in relay against cancer

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While the sun made its finest attempt to beam through the clouds early Saturday morning high above the Santa Monica College Corsair Field, the classic song, “Eye of the Tiger”, resonated throughout the speakers down below.

It was an impeccable kick-off song to start the 12th annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life, which is a 24-hour fundraising event that took place at SMC this past weekend. Cancer survivors, sporting purple survivor shirts, were the first group to head the start line and make their way around the track, enlivened by a host of family, friends, vendors and staff.

One of the survivors to first circle the track was Consuelo Bautista, who has survived various cancers over the past 30 years from breast cancer to colon cancer to thyroid cancer, one of which was as recent as last year. She walked around the track, with pep in her step and a smile, as her daughter, Ana Maria Jara, cheered her on. Ana, an SMC grad from 1976, and currently an employee of the college for the past 23 years at the International Education Center, has been attending this fundraising event since its inception 12 years ago along with her family and friends. Together they join forces every year under the team name “Pink Ladies” and raise money for cancer awareness as they have lost several family members over the years.

“It’s a great event. Ever since we’ve been participating I’ve noticed that people are talking more about cancer. I think back in the days it was more taboo, so it’s nice that there’s more awareness nowadays”, said Jara.

Aside from all the unique and inspirational stories that emerged throughout the 24 hour event, there were also various forms of entertainment, food vendors and informative vendors that colored the field over the weekend. They set up shop amongst the array of makeshift campsites which were made up of tents, canopies, sleeping bags and lawn chairs that lined the perimeter of the track where the participants of the 24 hour relay called home during the event. “A Walk with Sally” was one such vendor promoting cancer awareness. The organization was founded by Nick Arquette, who, when he was 11 years old, lost his mother to cancer. His organization is dedicated to providing mentoring support to children of parents, or siblings, with cancer. “A mentor spends about 6 to 8 months with a child, and we are always looking for mentors and families. We also are looking to expand into the Santa Monica area” shared Nikki deBaroncelli, who is the Program Manager for the El Segundo based company.

As the first day came to an end, the sun settled in the west. Though nightfall was upon them, the SMC track stayed bright and well lit, not only with love and positivity from the participants, but from glow sticks that were vibrant in various ways throughout the evening.

The word "HOPE" was spelled out with glow sticks across the entire bleacher section. Glow sticks were placed in white paper bags and placed around the track to remember those that have passed away from cancer, and family, friends and loved ones grasped on to glow sticks as well as they proceeded to circle the track for the relay that was made up of teams of family and friends. Not a competition, not a race, but teams that had one common bond with each other.

As night came and went, Sunday morning was upon the Relay for Life event. Before it came to an end at 10 A.M. two ceremonies took place. The first being the “Fight Back” ceremony which is symbolic to the commitment people make in the fight against cancer, and the commitment to saving lives. Second came the Closing ceremony, a time to reflect on lives lost and also to reflect on the relay event and the willingness of each person to continue to battle the disease over the year, and for years to come. Tears were shed, hugs were given and smiles were abundant before participants parted ways to end yet another successful year for the Relay for Life event. The tents came down, the bouncy houses were deflated, food packed away, brochures placed back in cartons.