PHOTO COURTESY OF DASHA DEAN PHOTOGRAPHY
On Saturday, September 18, local walkers, runners and cancer survivors will meet at Conejo Creek North to fight cancer with their feet in the annual Relay for Life of Conejo Valley.
Traditionally a 24-hour event, the event will run for 12 hours this year, beginning at 10 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. Participants may register on the event website to enjoy a variety of activities, including breakfast provided by the Thousand Oaks Kiwanis Club, with coffee and pastries from Thousand Oaks McDonald’s restaurant. Registered survivors will enjoy a special dinner, gelato from Tifa Chocolate and Gelato, with food for purchase available from the Ventura BBQ food truck. Live entertainment and other family-friendly activities are planned throughout the day. Teams will have on-site raffle items and silent auction baskets to raise funds.
Event volunteer coordinator Cristy Warner got involved with the event seven years ago when her son, Jackson, became an event lead. Following the death of his paternal grandfather, Jackson desired to make a difference in the cancer battle and didn’t want another person to lose a grandfather to the disease.
The Warners, joined by co-lead and friend John Routh and other dedicated committee members, have spent years bringing volunteers, participants and survivors together to support Relay for Life.
“We walk and walk because cancer never sleeps,” Cristy said. “This event was started by one person to bring positive change to a ravaging disease.”
Dr. Gordon Klatt launched the Relay for Life effort in 1985 when he walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Washington, to raise money for the American Cancer Society (ACS). As a cancer survivor, he envisioned teams participating in a 24-hour event to help battle cancer. Dr. Klatt lost his cancer battle but would have been pleased to see the worldwide fundraiser’s success.
In the past, the Conejo Valley has helped raise more than $100,000 with this event. They hope this year’s relay exceeds fundraising expectations and helps compensate for the past year’s funding deficit.
“The Relay for Life is the largest fundraiser for the American Cancer Society,” said Kelsey Davis, development manager for the ACS. “We’ve experienced a decline in contributions and are hoping to raise at least $50,000 with this year’s event. UCLA Health has been a big supporter for us for many years, and we have appreciated their ongoing support.”
UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Center’s generous financial donation is getting the event off to a great start. As the event’s partner and presenting sponsor, UCLA Health also provided marketing and communications support, goody bag items for survivors and a booth with on-site literature and support. PennyMac, City of Hope, and Hotline Construction also provided generous event sponsorship. Varying levels of fundraiser sponsorship remain available for local businesses.
Community members can join Relay by leading a team of friends and family, joining an existing team or attending as a solo participant. As this is not a race, participants walk or run at their own pace. Those wishing to support in a different way may create a luminaria — a homemade paper lantern. The luminaria, decorated with the names of loved ones, honor the lives touched by cancer and are especially beautiful when illuminated at sunset.
Cancer survivors traditionally take the Relay’s opening lap to cheers and community support. The final relay lap of silence closes the event as survivors, participants and supporters join in recognizing the lives lost to cancer and honoring those who continue to battle the disease.
The Conejo Valley is known for rising to so many challenges. As cancer continues to impact many lives and families locally, the Relay for Life fundraiser is a great chance for the Conejo community to join together and celebrate life.
To register for or sponsor Relay for Life, go to relayforlife.org/ConejoValleyCA or contact Jackson Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org.