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Relay for Life back in Manteca
Relay for Life Chair Debi Cantrell, center, stands with fellow committee members Misti McLeod, left, and Kim Bettencourt. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Relay for Life is returning to Manteca.

That part was made official at Wednesday’s kick-off event supporting the American Cancer Society at the Manteca Bowl & Family Fun Center. Last year, it was held at Dell’Osso Farms due in part to some scheduling woes. Organizers had to put together a makeshift track at the Lathrop facility.

Local organizers announced one big change for the May 16 event at East Union High’s Dino Cunial Field.

“Relay for Life will be a 13 hour (rather than a 24 hour) event,” said Debi Cantrell, who is chairing the fundraiser. “Yet everything will remain the same – the opening ceremony, the Luminaria, and caregivers / survivors recognition.”

This condensed version – from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. – will allow for teams and participants to still set up their areas but only without all of the overnight necessities. 

“Just because we’re doing it this way (for 2014) doesn’t mean we’ll do it this way every year – nothing is set in stone,” Cantrell said.

One huge upside with the change is the savings of donor money. Rather than two days, the Manteca Relay group will pay a one-day facilities use fee with Manteca Unified for use of the stadium. “This is an out-of-pocket expense,” said Cantrell.

Relay is the world’s largest and most impactful fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. Communities throughout the globe come together to celebrate people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and to take action to finish the fight once and for all.

Included is Joe Atalig, who lost his brother to cancer in March 2013.

Zack Atalig, at 22, was diagnosed with colon cancer. He fought the battle for two years, succumbing at 24.

But Zack left behind his thoughts and experiences of undergoing cancer treatment during that time on his computer. Joe, with the support of his wife Genna, shared those journal entries at the kick-off event.

“I was his caregiver, brother and best friend,” he said.

Joe Atalig detailed how Zack would get psyched out for chemotherapy, describing treatment as being “torn down and rebuilt.”

He also mentioned how much his brother cherished life along with those moments he spent with his children.

Joe and Genna Atalig are on a mission for a cure in memory of Zack.

This year marks the 30th year for Relay. For that, Cantrell along with fellow chairs Kim Bettencourt and Misty McLeod marked the occasion to dress up circa 1985. “Our theme this year is the ‘80s,” she said.

For more information, email Cantrell at or click on to