Luminarias light up Relay for Life

Marisa Saldaña
Staff Writer

Volunteers of all ages bundled themselves in thick sweaters and braced the cold wind with bright smiles as they walked, jogged or ran laps around the tracks to raise money for cancer awareness at the annual Relay for Life on Saturday and Sunday.

At first glance, Claremont High School seemed dreary and quiet against the rainy and cold sky over the weekend.  A loud warmth from laughter and music radiated from within the school as participants cheered each other on and danced. Participants of the Relay for Life walk took various shifts to continuously walk to raise funds.

Even with the task of walking at three in the morning, the field was covered in tents where teams prepared to camp overnight in order to walk their early morning shifts.

“This is definitely one of the largest gatherings we’ve had,” La Verne resident and fourth year volunteer Chris Kechichian said.

Every year over 5,000 Relay for Life events take place all over the world to raise money for cancer research.

At night participants lined the track with luminarias, which are paper lanterns, that were adorned with painted mementos in order to honor those who have lost their lives to cancer.

It was announced at the end of the event that a total of $54,000 was raised through donations and participations from each of the teams.

According to the National Cancer Institute, the overall cancer death rate has dropped 13 percent in the years between 2004-2013 due to advances in cancer research.

“I’m here for Cynthia Van Hult, a cancer survivor who could not be here today because she is celebrating her wedding anniversary, something she may not have been able to do if it had not been for the support here in the fight against cancer,” President of the American Cancer Society in San Gabriel Valley Yvonne Rosas Petty said.

“We all know that cancer doesn’t discriminate,” Rosas Petty said. “Age, sex, race, sexual orientation, religion, education, or political views, it makes no difference, and can become a part of our life at anytime.”

Many of the members of one of the teams were University of La Verne’s administration.

Chief Financial Officer Avo Kechichian, Associate Vice President of Facilities and Technology Clive Houston-Brown, and Director of Purchasing and Procurement Deborah Deacy, were all present.

They were all part of Team Stillwell, a team created four years ago to honor their co-worker, Judy Stillwell, who died from cancer in 2014.

“She was an amazing woman, who we all adored,” Deacy said.

Team Stillwell has raised $40,000 in the past four years.

The money raised is donated directly to funding cancer research, patient support programs, prevention information and education, and detection and treatment programs, as stated by the American Cancer Society.

“Hopefully, we can have a world with more birthdays and less cancer,” Deacy said.

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Marisa Saldaña can be reached at

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