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A bittersweet walk for life

Darleene Barrientos

Seeing hundreds of people walking the track along the perimeter of

Gross Park Saturday encouraged, yet saddened, cancer survivor Kari



Burbank’s second annual Relay for Life event drew 38 teams from

Burbank’s community groups, businesses and public service


“In a way, it’s scary to be reminded of how many people get cancer


today,” Makenna said. “At the same time, it’s so wonderful to see so

many people care.”

A breast cancer survivor from La Crescenta, Makenna remembers the

frightening and trying nine months of treatments.

During the 24-hour event, each of the teams keeps at least one

member on the track to signify how a cancer patient walks 24 hours a

day with the disease.

Before the relay began Saturday it had already raised $57,000,


team recruiter Danella Putna said.

Proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society, which will use

the money to research a cure for cancer.

This year’s Relay for Life was the second for Burbank, but the

event has already more than doubled in size. Last year just 13 teams


As team members walked, many wearing purple T-shirts that denoted

a cancer survivor, participants enjoyed live music and games like a


water balloon toss, a pie eating contest and a formal wear contest.

Water bottles sat in buckets full of ice along the track and

volunteers periodically walked among teams, passing out slices of


Several of the teams pitched tents in preparation for the

overnight stay.

Sharie Van Gilder, of Sherman Oaks, was one of those bunking down

for the evening with a tent, along with her three boys and her

sister’s son, Hunter. Susan Jackson, Van Gilder’s sister and Hunter’s

mother, died in March from a form of cancer usually diagnosed in

elderly people.

Van Gilder had once donated to Relay for Life when her stepmother

participated in an event in Illinois, but she felt a need to get


“I’m sure I will be involved forever, because it’s so close to my

heart,” Van Gilder said.

The network formed through Relay for Life is a lifeline itself,

helping those newly diagnosed with cancer find out what questions

need to be asked and where to turn to for more information, Putna