Former Burbank Police Capt. Janice Lowers walked in memory of her mother and two former colleagues, and to celebrate the fight for survival of two dear friends. Laureen Endoso did it as a tribute to her late husband, Kenny, who lost his battle with cancer last August. As for Cheryl Pranskevich, Vanja Strojnik and Julieanne Courtenay, a trio of physical therapists from Providence St. Joseph Medical Center who are all cancer survivors, they did it to prove that there is, in fact, life — a happy and healthy life — to be lived after beating the disease.
While their reasons for walking the perimeter of Johnny Carson Park were personal, they were very much the same as the ones harbored by more than 700 participants in last week’s eighth annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life.
Staged under the theme “Lighting the Way to Hope,” the goal of this 24-hour event was to increase cancer awareness in Burbank, while raising much-needed funds for the American Cancer Society’s programs and services. To accomplish that goal, last week’s relay saw teams, composed of 12 to 24 people, take turns walking or running the relay path, and enjoying food, entertainment, activities and educational and inspirational speakers.
Following an opening ceremony attended by Mayor Jess Talamantes, Vice Mayor Dave Golonski and City Manager Mike Flad, purple-shirted survivors took off on the relay’s inaugural lap.
“Cancer survivors make the first lap and are then met halfway by caregivers who take them the rest of the way to show that no one does this alone,” said event Chairwoman Joan “J.P” O’Connor. “This event celebrates cancer survivors, remembers those we’ve lost and fights back against a disease that has taken too many.”
Joining more than 5,000 communities nationwide to raise funds that will be used for research, advocacy, education and free support services to cancer patients and their families were team participants Dianne Bowne, Tinamarie Richardson, Jacqui Goglia, Erin Leiker, Nadine Winning, Magda Sellon, Jean Grossman, Brittany Vaughan, Danella Putna, Celia Rogus, Darla Gerharter, Juan Guillen, Christina Piazza, Erin Barrows, Timothy Crawford, Jennifer Payne, Karen Ross, Renee York, Deborah Catello, Bob Kinzel, Maria Rynn, Eric Norris, Helen Heulga, Theresa Vesagas, Mercedes Parodi, Terry Walker, Kathy Yaeger, Kevin Nay, Denisse Castillo, Darcy Yates, Michele Higginbotham and Amy Lawrence.
Others who braved the overnight and early Sunday morning rain to help make this year’s relay a reality included the event’s co-chair, Robby Pitt, and committee members Michelle Jacobovitz, Kim Pitt, Mychelle Aguilar, Lori Larson, Rob Vincent, Rafael Flores, Socorro Oseguera, Heidi Darrah, Kerry McAloom, Laura Wynne, Amy Frey, Nate Frey, Harry Berberian, Victoria Sands, Violet Nesbitt, Celeste Osborne, Celia Denecke, Jean Menard, Derrick Mullins and Marion Dempter.
Along with thanking the Olive Garden restaurant for providing the event’s dinner, O’Connor specifically praised the contributions of Luis Lara, the owner of Burbank’s Command Performance Catering.
“It takes a village of dedicated people to stage an event like this,” O’Connor said. “While we are very fortunate to have so many committed individuals, Luis was truly a standout in making this happen. He is our relay angel!”