Merced's Relay for Life draws 1,300 participants

vpatton@mercedsunstar.comApril 29, 2013 

— Merced organizers for The American Cancer Society's Relay for Life said this weekend's event at the Merced College stadium was a success, raising more than $190,000 for cancer programs.

Organizers for the 24-hour event, which lasted from 8:45 a.m. Saturday until 9 a.m. Sunday, estimated more than 1,300 people participated.

Melissa Puita, the event's co-chairman, said donations are still coming in from the event, and she expects the amount raised locally will be higher than $190,000 once all the funds are counted.

Part fund-raiser and part fun, in addition to spreading awareness and education, Relay for Life invites attendees to put together teams and raise money to fight cancer.

Puita said 107 teams participated in this year's event, along with more than 250 people who've survived cancer. During the event, teams take turns walking or running around a track in relay style. All the money raised benefits cancer research, education, patient service programs, advocacy and support services.

Each team is encouraged to put together a booth where participants and the public can enjoy activities or learn potentially lifesaving lessons about cancer through interpretive displays.

The festive event is a "celebration of life" to support those fighting cancer and remember loved ones who've died.

Kathy Flaherty, the event's food chairman, said she lost both parents and her grandmother to cancer. "(Relay for Life) brings the community together," she said. "Everyone has been touched by cancer, whether it's a friend, family member or themselves.

Considered the signature fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society, Relay for Life is held in more than 4,800 communities across the country and more than 300 in California. The event generally takes place during the last weekend in April.

City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsunstar.com.

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