More than 200 people spent their weekend walking laps around Clark Magnet High School’s athletic field for the annual Foothills Relay for Life. One of them was 74-year-old Elaine Collins, a breast cancer survivor.
Her battle in 2006 was brief thanks to early detection, but since then the retired physical education and gymnastics teacher has signed up every year for the fundraiser benefiting the American Cancer Society.
Borrowing from a saying she used during her career, the now retired Collins explained her motivation for walking toward her 11-mile goal.
“I always told my students don’t ever say 'I can’t,' cause once you say that, you’re defeated,” she said.
One of 21 cancer survivors at this year’s Relay for Life, Collins walked a mile for each of her sponsors and contributed to the more than $50,000 raised by 21 teams.
At 9 a.m. Saturday, adults and youngsters representing local groups like the La Crescenta Presbyterian Church to the Crescenta Valley High School’s robotics team took turns making their way around the field until 9 a.m. Sunday.
“The premise behind the day is that cancer never sleeps and neither do we,” said Lori Carrico, the chair of this year’s fundraiser.
Following a candlelight vigil for cancer victims during sunset and well into the night, participants camped out in tents on the field, playing cards and board games long into the night.
In the past 13 years, people from La Crescenta, Montrose and La Cañada have come together to raise more than $1 million since the first Foothills Relay for Life.
“We’re family,” Carrico said. “And that’s what so nice about this community because whether it’s sports, whether it’s community events with the chamber of commerce, we’re always together and this is what brings us back each year.”
La Crescenta resident Ed Waldheim, a cancer survivor who participated in the event, said he had a bout with prostate cancer and he uses Relay for Life to relay the message of getting checked early and often to better treat fight the disease.
“We’re so negligent,” he said. “The men on one side with prostate cancer and women on the other with mammograms, there’s so much out there that can prevent cancer, that can help cancer if you can detect it. We haven’t begun to educate people properly."
It was the second straight year Crescenta Valley High junior Eric Shintaku joined in representing his school’s robotics team.
Shintaku, who recently lost a grandparent to cancer, said the most important role high schoolers can play in Relay for Life is setting an example for the middle school students and elementary students who will eventually be in his shoes.
“I think high school students can open the eyes of some of the younger kids,” he said.
-- Arin Mikailian, email@example.com
Follow on Twitter: @ArinMikailian.