Relay for Life to return to Lincoln

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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With the end of early team registration approaching, Lincoln residents wishing to participate in this year’s Relay for Life can still enter at a discounted rate. Relay for Life is an American Cancer Society-sponsored event that involves teams of residents walking around the track at Lincoln High School for 24 hours from 9 a.m. May 16 to 9 a.m. May 17. Last year’s event was held across the United States and in 18 foreign countries, according to the American Cancer Society’s Web site. The last day for team early registration, with a fee of $75, is March 31 for Lincoln’s Relay for Life. After that, Lincoln’s Relay for Life event coordinator Mia Balderas-Guzman said, the fee increases to $100. “My biggest goal is to get awareness to people,” Balderas-Guzman said. “Overall, our goal is to find a cure for cancer.” Each team member gets sponsors to donate money and the money pooled is given to cancer research, Balderas-Guzman said. In last year’s local event, 50 teams participated, according to Balderas-Guzman. This year, her goal is to sign up at least 60 teams, which average between 15 and 30 walkers. Walkers typically go around the track for a short time, being relieved by their teammates, to ensure that there is a walker from each team on the track for the entirety of the relay, which continues throughout the night. “Cancer never sleeps so we don’t sleep the night of the program,” Balderas-Guzman said. One Relay for Life participant is cancer survivor and Lincoln resident Ted Powell. Powell’s first bout with cancer was in 2000, when he had spots of skin cancer surgically removed. Powell said he was cancer-free for six years when, in March of 2006, he felt a lump by his left armpit, which was determined to be a variation of lung cancer. After the removal of 22 lymph nodes and undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, Powell was again in remission. “What drives me (to do Relay for Life) is, after going through this, first I thought, ‘Why me?’ Then, it was, ‘Why not me?’ I saw a lot of people worse off than me,” Powell said. Powell, who was participating in Relay for Life in Rancho Cordova through his work at AT&T even before he had cancer, is one of the many survivors who regularly walk in the relay. “I’ve been doing it twice a year,” Powell said, as he participates in two cities. “There are quite a few survivors. It gives them an outlet. It’s sweet but bitter, too. You hear a story and it brings back memories and it’s kind of sad but people are there, smiling, trying to get the word out and help people.” Relay for Life is an all-volunteer event. Most of the volunteers, Balderas-Guzman said, have dealt with cancer, either personally or through a family member. Balderas-Guzman’s sister-in-law, Maria, lost her battle with cancer. “I just felt like I had to do it for her,” said Balderas-Guzman, a team captain for the past three years. Despite the current state of the economy and rising unemployment, Guzman said she is hopeful that this year’s relay will be every bit as successful as last year’s, which brought in about $122,000. The American Cancer Society has found that donations tend to be higher during tough economic times, Balderas-Guzman said. The event itself provides a good atmosphere, Balderas-Guzman said, with opening ceremonies at the beginning of the 24-hour period, followed by survivors walking the first lap. Music, a children’s area, exercise demonstrations and a midnight movie round out the day. One of the trademarks of the annual event, however, is the luminaries’ ceremony, which features candles lit inside bags to honor both those who been lost to cancer and those who survived it. Volunteers are always needed, Balderas-Guzman said, and anyone is welcome to help. “It makes you feel good that you can help out,” Powell said. “It’s a scary thing but don’t let the word get to you. Remember that there’s hope.” Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at