Eleven men in unusual attire stood in a line facing a crowd outside the Grape Pavilion. Garbed in short shiny halter dresses, long regal bridesmaids gowns, and an odd array of hula skirts, each man held a small purse stuffed full of dollar bills and coins.
It was a strange drag queen show, but for a good cause. These men were the contestants in the Miss-ter Relay contest. Each dressed up in women’s clothing and used their charms to gather donations from the rest of the participants at Lodi’s Relay for Life, the annual overnight event to benefit the American Cancer Society.
In 20 minutes, the men gathered over $350.
It’s a show of generosity at a fundraising event with more than $100,000 already in the bank. Thirty eight teams spent a year getting sponsors, and will spend 24 hours walking on a circle track at the Lodi Grape Festival Grounds to represent the ongoing fight against cancer. Each team will keep at least one member on the track at all times.
This is the 11th year the benefit has been held in Lodi, and more than 540 participants signed up.
Like many walkers, event coordinator Tiffany Trull has a personal reason for her efforts. Three of her four grandparents died of cancer, and several more friends and family have been hurt by some form of the disease.
“I do this for the future,” she said. To save my kids, to save myself, to prevent cancer from happening to anyone I love.”
New this year is a Car Show For the Cause. Locals brought in their show cars, and the $15 entrance fee went to the general fund.
Bikram Yoga of Lodi led yoga lessons on Saturday morning. Dozens of cancer survivors were treated to free massages from the Spinal Care Center of Lodi.
One booth stood out from the rest with a tall painted tower from which a long golden braid trailed.
This was the headquarters of team Happily Ever After, who themed their booth after the story of Rapunzel and “Tangled,” a Disney movie. As fundraising, the team sold crowns of flowers and long braids like the long-haired princess.
Since many cancer treatments cause hair loss, Jareth Black said his team focused on helping women feel beautiful even without a full head of hair.
“We’ve got information on how to get wigs through the American Cancer Society, we’re raffling off items to cancer survivors, and teaching women about how to take care of their hair and skin during and after treatment,” he said. “We want them to feel good on the outside to help them feel better on the inside.”
Another booth was home of Pinky’s Patrol, a team made up of Lodi Police Officers and their wives and families.
“I don’t want other people to go through what my family had to go through,” said 16 year old Jahred Nunes, whose grandfather battled prostate cancer, and is now in remission.
While the men of the Miss-ter Relay contest walked the grounds with confidence, one 13 year old girl was nervous. Megan McDonald was preparing herself to cut ten inches from her long ginger hair. She’s donated it twice before to Locks of Love, a group that makes wigs for children with cancer, but this time is different.
She’s about to go into high school.
So she made a bet. McDonald wore a huge cardboard sign that read, “If I earn $250, I’ll cut my hair.” In three hours, the money was made, and she went in the stylist’s chair at 3:30 p.m.
The short cut is worth it, she said.
“Everyone tells me how beautiful my hair is, and I think it would be good to give it to someone else, who needs it,” she said.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at email@example.com.