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900 join ranks to fight cancer
Relay for Life honors survivors, those who have died
Manteca Fire Captain Franco Torrice who just got his shoulder length hair cut gets some friendly words of advice from cancer survivor Karen Petersen. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin
Jean Lewis. Lyle Stern. Mary Perry. Jowell Griggs. Jules Welch. Peggy Sain. Ed Wackerly. Howard Morton. Dave Morton.

They were among the hundreds of loved ones that lost their fight with cancer whose names were carefully written on white paper bags lining the Sierra High track during Manteca’s 24 Hour Relay for Life that started Saturday at 9 a.m. Some had photos. Most had touching messages such as “In memory of a great man, Grandpa Shannon.”

Shortly after dusk the football stadium that had been filled with happy sounds of kids playing football, the laughter of the young and young at heart trying their hand at events ranging from hula hoop competitions to sack races and just general happy chatter fell quiet.

Candles within those hundreds of luminaries bags glowed prompting solemn silence punctuated with tears among many of the participants bracing against the cooling Delta breezes.

It was one of the reasons they had devoted the past several months fundraising and then spent their weekend camped out at Sierra High - to honor and remember those who had died from cancer by raising money to help the American Cancer Society find a cure.

Less than 12 hours earlier nearly 140 cancer survivors from preschoolers to seniors started the event off with the survivor’s lap.

There were touching stories everywhere you turned.

Manteca Fire Captain Franco Torrice had spent the past year growing shoulder length hair so the highest bidder could cut it. The money raised went to the American Cancer Society and the hair went to Locks of Love for cancer victims who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy.

Torrice was inspired in part by Karen Petersen, the mother-in-law of Manteca firefighter Sterie McLeod. She was one of the 140 cancer survivors on hand for the start of the 24 Hour Relay.

Dozens of booths selling everything from deep-fried Oreos to chances to win teeth brightening from dentist Pam Andrews lined the track. Every cent spent is going to the American Cancer Society.

And almost every booth was graced with the photos of family and friends who are either battling cancer or else lost their lives to cancer. The death toll from cancer is staggering. More than 560,000 Americans died from cancer in 2008.

There were 66 teams with nearly 900 registered participants in the Manteca Relay for Life.

The goal is to raise $162,000. That would bring the Manteca effort since it started 11 years ago to $1 million raised for the fight against cancer.

The relay ends today at 9 a.m.