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24-Hour Relay For Life For American Cancer Society Draws Survivors And Supportive Friends & Family

Emotion packed Luminaria ceremony marks Saturday night.


(May 6, 2012) -- Several hundred people converged on Long Beach's Rainbow Lagoon Park on Saturday May 5 to begin this year's 24-hour Relay for Life, the local component to the American Cancer Society's major annual fundraiser in which teams of participants walk for 24 hours in relay-style to "celebrate, remember and fight back" against cancer.

Screen capture from LIVE webcast video (highlights available on demand below)

Cancer survivors (wearing purple T-shirts) came in all ages. from an 16 year old honors student (and LB Police Explorer) fighting leukemia to grandparents accompanied by their sons, daughters and grandchildren. provided LIVE VIDEO of the event's start (with on-demand highlights below now.

The Relay opened with organizer Rick Nolan introducing Le Anne Taylor (cancer survivor and Relay committee member) who spoke in compelling personal terms about her diagnosis (a month after her wedding, the day before Thanksgiving).

Screen capture from LIVE webcast; view VIDEO on-demand below)

Ms. Taylor shared her personal battle with cancer...and how it had brought her and her husband closer than ever. Her sister and caregiver, Charise Payne, also spoke and further describing the impacts. To see and hear their words in full, click the video below.

An opening "Survivor's Lap" then followed (also on video above) as walkers, clad in purple, began the 24 hour Relay.

Walkers were encouraged onward by performances from (among others) the Long Beach Junior Concert Band, the Blues Revolution (led by Bill Grisolia), Yaya's Performance Academy and other groups.

The Long Beach Police Department had a sizable volunteer presence, including Commander Josef Levy, Sgt. Dina Zapalski (whose fundraising team raised over a $1,000) and Sgt. Rico Fernandez. In photo below, civilian PIO Nancy Pratt helps ready the LBPD tent for arrivals.

LBPD Chief Jim McDonnell was present at the morning's events. (Video of Chief McDonnell, Commander Levy and Sgt. Fernandez coming shortly).

Among those on the minds of LBPD participants is a 16 year old Long Beach Police Explorer (and honors student) diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year. His step father spoke with by telephone on Saturday evening about how his step son and the entire family have dealt with the illness and his son's now ongoing recovery. (Audio coming here shortly).

Ms. Taylor (whose compelling words opened the Relay) also created a giant quilt, displayed at the Survivor's Tent. Survivors wrote their names and messages of encouragement...and the quilt will be displayed at LB Memorial Medical Center.

Supportive businesses fielded teams, conducted fundraising and provided volunteers, including Jackson-Hewitt Tax Service.

Rick Nolan ("Relay Rick") (left in photo below, just finished applying sunscreen) was everywhere.

At 9 p.m., an emotion-packed Luminaria ceremony took place...and white Luminaria candle bags were illuminated, each personalized with the name, photo, message or drawing provided by a Relay For Life participant to honor a survivor or remember a friend of loved one who faced and fought cancer.

LBPD volunteers sold T-shirts at the event, and supporters and survivors wrote messages on the Survivor's Quilt and purchased Luminaria.

As of Saturday night, the event's website indicated that roughly 349 participants in 28 Relay for Life teams had raised over $56,000 through their basically grassroots efforts. For a list of the participants, click here [and one can continue to donate online for a favored participant].

Their accomplishment was especially noteworthy since this year's Relay (as last year's) somehow collided with a "Bike Fest" scheduled for the same weekend at nearly the same location. The bicycle event included a charity component, raising money for the Jonathan Jaques Children's Cancer at Miller Children's Hospital. The bicycle event was visibly supported by bike-riding local officials and its charity component reportedly raised roughly $240,000 for the Jonathan Jaques Children's Cancer Center.

Organizers of the bike event located their starting line just feet from the entrance to the fenced off area where the Relay for Life took place...and Relay participants (including cancer survivors) were able to hear LB officials (including Mayor Bob Foster) welcoming participants to the bicycle event.

Cyclists pedaled past the Relay event and (as of 11:30 a.m.) no LB elected officials had stopped by to acknowledge the the Relay for Life participants.

The Relay continued through the overnight hours. Some Relay participants brought tents to get them through the 24-hour effort.

Closing ceremonies are scheduled for Sunday morning at 8 a.m...with the final relay walker scheduled for about 9:00 a.m.

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