Local News

Saturday, May 03 2014 07:54 PM

Thousands rally, and spend, in support of cancer research

  1. 1 of 27

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Kenny Gentry came prepared for Saturday's annual Relay for Life event in Bakersfield with this homemade cardboard car to help fight cancer with Team Knock Out. "Too fast for cancer" is their motto.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Kenny and Kelly Gentry were ready for the Relay for Life event Saturday with their too fast for cancer homemade car with team Knock Out (cancer).

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Intensity All Star Cheer team marches in the early morning Parade of Teams with dozens of other teams during the annual Relay for Life at Airport and Merle Haggard drives Saturday.

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  4. 4 of 27

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Team Survivor Bakersfield members wave to the crowd during the Relay for Life Parade of Teams opening walk around the track Saturday.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Millers Cancer Killers march in the Relay for Life event Saturday in Bakersfield. Many were dressed like circus characters including many clowns.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    During the Parade of Teams Saturday morning in the Relay for Life activities, Survivor Bakersfield member Marlene Elbert, center, hugs her friend Donna Baker.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Freerunner, Michael Reed does a mid-air flip as he marches in the Parade of Teams with "Not Quite Right," team, Saturday, at the Relay for Life event.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Team Vee Power was one of dozens participating in Saturday's Relay for Life Parade of Teams to help fight and beat cancer.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Armando Torres carries his daughter Natalie Torres on his shoulders with team Footprints of Faith, Saturday, during the Parade of Teams at Relay for LIfe.

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  10. 10 of 27

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    The annual Relay for Life event helps raise funds each year in Bakersfield to help fight cancer.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Rylee's Ray of Hope team gets excited during the Parade of Teams during the weekend's annual Relay for Life.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Christine Soerjono, left, and her sister, Barbara Hutchings, cheer on the participants in the Parade of Teams Saturday during the Relay for Life event.

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  13. 13 of 27

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Christine Soerjono, left, and her sister Barbara Hutchings have fun together Saturday cheering on those involved in the Relay for Life Parade of Teams.

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  14. 14 of 27

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    The shiny survivor medals are ready to be worn by those cancer survivors who walk in the survivors lap, Saturday, during the Relay for Life event.

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  15. 15 of 27

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Those marching in the Parade of Teams with West High School have fun while they are introduced at the main stage during the Relay for Life activities.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Many volunteers prepare the luminarias for the ceremony Saturday night during the Relay for Life evening event.

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  17. 17 of 27

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Many West High students and faculty came out Saturday for the Relay for Life event.

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  18. 18 of 27

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Gail and Tom Burch.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Kenny and Kelly Gentry.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Rosa Torres and Diane Hernandez.

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  21. 21 of 27

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Leticia Harbin, left, Ariel Carbajal, and Veronica Martinez.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Hector and Rebecca Gomez.

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  23. 23 of 27

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Elizabeth Rosales, and Maria Pacheco.

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  24. 24 of 27

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Susan and Glenn Myers.

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  25. 25 of 27

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Shannon and Gehrig Hernandez.

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  26. 26 of 27

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Ken Hasselbar, Wendy Kolb and Deanna Brown, right.

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  27. 27 of 27

    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Whyatt Kolb and Larry Kolb.

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BY LOIS HENRY Californian staff writer lhenry@bakersfield.com

It's kind of amazing what you can buy at Bakersfield's Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society's massive annual fundraiser for cancer research and prevention.

Homemade jewelry, quilts, cookies from the Cal State Bakersfield NORML club (not to worry, cannabis-free only) snow cones, baby caps knitted in the shape of a woman's breast (adorable!), painted rocks and even butterflies.

There seems to be no end to the creative ways Relay teams have devised to raise one more dollar to help "find a cure."

Dunk tanks? Of course. Belly-dancing lessons? You bet. Bra pong? Oh yeah, that too.

The vast Relay grounds at Saturday's all-day-and-into-the-night event were filled with dedicated people united in their quest to help find a cure for one of humanity's most prevalent and dreaded -- even hated -- diseases.

Seriously, the anti-cancer sentiment was fierce.

Several booths had toilets, even makeshift outhouses, where participants were invited to "flush" cancer (for a small fee, of course). And a hot-selling button used a certain four-letter word that can't be repeated in a family newspaper to describe the wearer's feelings toward the disease.

Cancer was definitely not welcome at Bakersfield's 23rd annual Relay event, which was expected to raise more than $1 million from the nearly 300 teams.

This is one of more than 5,000 Relay events around the country and world. There are even virtual Relay for Life events.

That's a lot of money pouring into cancer research.

Is it helping?

That was just one of the questions that came up at a panel discussion Saturday.

Cancer treatment has advanced by leaps and bounds in some respects, said Dr. Vinh-Linh Nguyen with Bakersfield Hematology Oncology.

New drugs have helped not only prolong lives, but given people much better quality of life.

"But there's still so much about cancer that we don't understand," he acknowledged.

That's why volunteers for new clinical trials are so important, he said.

"Research works," said Dr. Betty Arvizu with the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center. Finding a cure means taking a lot of little steps along the way.

For many, though, those future breakthroughs and discoveries will be too late.

Booth after booth paid testament to that sad fact with photos of loved ones, their dates of death and the type of cancer that took them tucked next to the colorful garden plates, frozen bandannas or Twinkies in "Minions" wrappers that team members eagerly hawked to passers-by.

For cousins Gabriella Jackson, 12, and Solaye Curtis, 8, it was their grandmother's best friend and her husband, both taken by cancer, who bring their entire family to Relay each year. This was the girls' fourth Relay.

"It was really sad," Gabriella said of her grandmother's friends.

The girls were selling butterflies from Shafter's Insect Lore for $1.

"When you release it, you say a prayer for someone," Gabriella explained.

Inside the small pyramid-shaped box sat a beautiful monarch butterfly.

It was still at first, keeping its orange and black wings tightly together. As the sunlight warmed it, it stretched out its wings once, then twice.

Then, all at once, it flitted toward the sky and fluttered away -- free.

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