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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Cancer Fight a Walk Around the Clock

Health: Hundreds take part in Relay for Life benefit at Moorpark College to raise money for group devoted to research and support for victims of the disease.

November 19, 2000|CATHERINE BLAKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

They walked in circles, wearing tennis shoes, army boots or slippers. Some ate chips or filmed a movie or talked on the phone. But they kept walking.

Hundreds gathered Saturday for the Relay for Life, a 24-hour walk around the track at Moorpark College to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

The goal was to raise $30,000, said Gary Cabriales, the event's chairman. But they collected $116,000.

"We're thrilled," he said.

About 50 teams kept at least one person walking at all times during the 24-hour period.

To accomplish this, most teams assigned an hour or two of nonstop track circling to each member.

The dreaded times were in the middle of the night, but children and other hearty souls volunteered for those hours.

And for those who wanted to stay awake there were midnight events, including a pajama party, fashion show, worst hair and limbo contests.

Joan Martinez, 72, said she planned to be snuggled in her bed by that time.

About 11 a.m. Saturday, Martinez was sitting in a chair in the middle of the field and drawing her late father's name on a luminary--a paper bag illuminated from the inside by a candle.

She said at her age she only walks when she needs to--but for the fund-raiser she circled the track 2 1/2 times.

Martinez, who had breast cancer two years ago, said her father and grandmother died of the disease. She was participating in the relay because of her dedication to the Cancer Society, which reached out to her in a time of need.

"Like any person, I never thought it would happen to me," she said. "Then, when it did, and they were so helpful with support, it really endeared me to the organization."

She did not plan to sleep at the field, as did many of the participants who had pitched tents. She would leave that to her daughter.

As part of a nationwide event, the Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society's single-largest fund-raising activity of the year.

This year there were five relays in Ventura County.

This was Moorpark's first.

Melody Higginbotham, 37, has donated time and money for many fund-raisers that support cancer research.

She said the Relay for Life is an intimate gathering that encourages families to participate.

She described the exhilaration of other cancer walks, which can range from three miles to three days.

Higginbotham and five of her grown siblings were at the relay with their spouses and children.

They were walking for their mom, who died five years ago of breast cancer.

Their team was called The Slow Pokes, a name dreamed up by her 6-year-old niece.

Higginbotham said she explained to some of her younger family members the importance of the walks. "I tell them that people get more involved and will donate more if there is some event that you're going to go do."

Higginbotham said the money that supports the society's research is invaluable.

"It used to be when someone had cancer, it was a death sentence," she said. "But because of things like this--raising money--it's not anymore."

Cabriales said the food was donated, and event planners asked that each participant raise $100.

The relay ends at 9 a.m. today.

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