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VENTURA | VENTURA COUNTY FOCUS

Teams Walk and Roll to Benefit Charities

September 14, 1997|COLL METCALFE

As captain of the Victoria Guards, it fell on Nels Morrison to inspire his team to "take no prisoners" in Saturday's fourth annual Gurney Turney.

"The competition doesn't look so tough, just look at them," he told his four teammates, all of whom were dressed in tartan kilts. "We trained. We know what to do."

Morrison's team, all employees at the Victoria Care Center, joined about 15 other corporate-sponsored teams to compete and raise money for the Livingston Memorial Visiting Nurse Assn., which provides home care and hospice services to ill patients.

The estimated $15,000 raised by the event at Ventura Harbor will go to several youth bereavement counseling programs run by the organization.

The Gurney Turney pits two five-member teams against each other on a course that includes various obstacles, hairpin turns and blazing straightaways. The competition begins with each team chugging a glass of 7-Up before pushing the wheeled gurneys through the course and over obstacles.

Once the bubbly, burp-inducing liquid has been consumed, teams run to their gurneys. While trying to stay in place, the person riding the gurney must also carry a bowl of water and complete the race with some still inside.

"It's not just about speed," said Kara Partridge, spokeswoman for the visiting nurse association. "There are a lot of ways to lose points, so it helps to be careful."

Morrison said his team had been practicing in the basement of the Victoria Care Center for a few weeks and felt confident that its preparation would pay off.

He was also worried that some teams--like the Ventura Police Department's contingent of beefy, thick-armed and unsmiling SWAT team competitors--had been stacked with ringers.

In the end, the squad from the Ventura County Medical Center came home with the golden trophy. Morrison and his teammates, however, didn't go home empty-handed. They won the distinction of having the best costume.

The Gurney Turney wasn't the only health-related fund-raiser Saturday.

The west county chapter of the American Heart Assn. raised about $20,000 during its sixth annual Heart Walk at the Channel Islands Harbor.

More than 15 teams from businesses and organizations, including plenty of heart disease survivors, participated in the 3-mile walk to raise awareness and money to fight the disease.

"It's so important that we all show up and support this cause, because it can happen to anyone," said Suz Montgomery, chairwoman of the event and a survivor of heart disease. "It definitely gives people like myself a reason to feel like we're going to beat this thing."

Tonya Cassidy participated with her family for the second consecutive year because of her daughter, Savanah.

At 2 months old, Savanah was diagnosed with heart disease, and she has undergone surgery to repair a valve in her heart. Tonya Cassidy said that walking was her way of not only saying thank you to association members who helped her family, but also helping to find a cure.

"Everybody here is so great," the 29-year-old Oxnard resident said. "It's a great feeling to be able to do something and help those people who are fighting heart disease."

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