Purple and pink balloons dotted the landscape at last weekend, signaling the arrival of Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) annual fundraiser to fight back against cancer.
Approximately 5,000 participants and 48 teams were expected at the 24-hour fundraising event. Now in its tenth year in Agoura, 48 survivors were also expected to show up and rally supporters.
During the 24-hour event, teams of people camp out at the school and take turns walking or running around a track. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times, according the event’s official website.
One participating survivor was Kevin Cordasco of Calabasas. “I feel stronger every time I come to this event,” said the 15-year-old who is battling neuroblastoma, a form of cancer involving the nervous system and bone marrow.
“It’s relatively rare. Out of 50,000 children diagnosed with cancer every year, only 600 have neuroblastoma,” said Melody, Kevin’s mom.
The teen’s involvement with Relay for Life started five years ago, at the time of his initial cancer diagnosis. He has since survived various cancer types five times. “Yes, I’m a five-time cancer survivor,” said the teen, a junior at “I’ve gained and lost friends due to cancer. Some of them just couldn’t handle it or didn’t know what to say around me, but the new friends I've made at the relays have more than made up for those."
In his spare time or in between chemotherapy treatment sessions, Cordasco plays the drums in a band. “His band performed during the opening ceremonies earlier today, said Melody.”
“We have many survivors like Kevin who come back year after year and sort of become the poster kids of the relay,” said Barbara Lively, event chairperson.
A two-time cancer survivor herself, the Agoura Hills resident does public speaking events and facilitates workshops for ACS as a year-round volunteer. This is her ninth year as a volunteer.
As the day progressed, participants and survivors walked around the track round-the-clock amidst balloons, flags, tents and EZ-ups. One of them was Linda Fletcher, a member of the Gateway Church in Agoura Hills.
Unlike Cordasco and Lively, Fletcher’s connection to cancer is through her church, whose many members are survivors themselves. “I walk in their honor,” said the Woodland Hills resident. “I raise funds and walk for my pastor’s wife who is a two-time survivor and for others whose lives have been disrupted by cancer.”
This year’s event is nearing its fundraising goal of $100,000, up from the $65,000 raised last year, according to Emma Wolfe, Relay for Life manager.
The fundraising takes a back seat to community bonding., according to Wolfe.
“Communities coming together for cancer, is really one of our primary goals,” she said. “Everyone wants to help in some way.”