Lodi resident Brian Harris proudly lapped around the Grape Festival grounds on Saturday with a cowboy hat that was decorated with flowers and stuffed kitten dolls.
It was Harris’s 10th Relay For Life event, and every lap was a reminder that he was walking in memory of his mother and father who had both succumbed to cancer, but had fought through every round of treatment with a strong heart and a smile.
“I have seen how hard the chemo process can be. I have seen how it makes others suffer, ” he said as he walked by booth after booth. “And I figure if my feet and ankles can suffer for a couple of days to support this cause, then that is just fine by me.”
Harris was one of hundreds who turned out for this year’s Relay For Life to support those in their lives that had battled cancer.
Some were survivors. Others were the husbands, wives or friends of those who had beaten the disease. A few had lost loved ones who had battled bravely. The common denominator among everyone in attendance Saturday was to fight back and help find a cure for cancer.
“The camaraderie and determination here is what is so great,” said Carole Funge, a member of the Relay team known as The Mardi Bras. “I have walked too many laps to count, but it is great to come out and every year, see the same teams supporting (Relay For Life) and to also see this grow.”
The morning began with a lap in which all those who were cancer survivors walked around the Grape Festival grounds together.
A swarm of turquoise and purple shirts marched around the track, faces lit up by smiles and a sense of understanding of just how hard it is to beat cancer at any age. Young children walked next to grandmothers or grandfathers, men and women walked next to teens.
The walk showed that cancer can not only be beaten, but in fact conquered by any age group.
The day also featured a “Miss Relay” pageant in which local men stepped up to help out by getting dressed in women’s clothes, and having make-up and an assortment of other accessories put on to lap the Grape Festival grounds and collect donations.
Participants were “fierce,” as many bystanders stated, and all were in character, posing and strutting to not only get more funds for their teams, but also to get a few laughs out of those at Saturday’s event.
Costumes included dresses stuffed at the chest, heels, and heavy eye makeup.
The night continued with music and a luminary ceremony where those who were being remembered that day had a candle lit in their memory.
Countless luminaries lined the pathway as people continued to walk through the night.
By morning, people were tired but satisfied. Walking was tough for some, but they kept going.
The event continues to grow every year, participants said, and they cannot wait to see how big the crowd is next summer.
“Just keep truckin’,” Harris said as he completed another lap.
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at email@example.com.