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Survivors walk at Relay for Life 2019 - photo Gina Clugston

Minarets Hosts 20th Annual Relay For Life Fundraiser

O’NEALS – The 20th American Cancer Society Relay for Life kicked off Friday afternoon in O’Neals, with 185 participants representing 17 teams taking part in the dusk-to-dawn annual fundraising event.

“As of Friday morning, we’d already raised more than $30,000,” said Daniel Ching, principal of Minarets High School and the organizer of the 2019 cancer walk, which was held for the first time at Minarets High’s track.

Ching said the fundraiser is actually “in the process of being rebranded.”

“For just this year, we’re calling it the ‘American Cancer Society Relay for Life Presents Sierra Mountain Communities for a Cure,'” he said.

Minarets freshman Alison Partin entertaining on Friday evening – photo George Lurie

The new name, he added, better reflects “all of the mountain communities that participate” while still maintaining a connection with the Relay for Life moniker “for all of the people who’ve been doing this event for years.”

Next year, Ching said the event name will be shortened to Sierra Mountain Communities for a Cure. “We’re trying to bridge the old with the new.”

Regardless of its name, event volunteer Therese Righter said organizers’ goal remains the same: “To bring together all of the mountain communities, businesses, and schools for a great purpose — to support the American Cancer Society in its mission to fight cancer.”

Minarets High freshmen Melia Kamalani and Selena Mendosa wearing God is Bigger than Cancer t-shirts – photo George Lurie

Teams from Minarets and Yosemite high schools as well as student groups from Spring Valley and River Gold elementary schools took part in the event. Ching said the youngest participants were 12 and the oldest “in their late 70s.”

Ching said the change in venue has helped draw more participants — and donations.

“By the time we wrap up Saturday, we’re hoping to get as close to $50,000 as we can,” he said.

Friday night’s “luminaria ceremony” honored survivors and those who’ve lost the battle with cancer, with hundreds of paper lanterns lining the track perimeter with the names of cancer survivors and victims written on the outside.

Participants also munched on pulled pork sandwiches provided by the Minarets Youth Wrestling program and took in live music performances by the Minarets Show Band and other local student musicians.

On Saturday morning everyone gathered for the opening ceremony where Ching was presented with a $2,500 check from True Value Hardware in Oakhurst.

Survivors then took a victory lap after which they were joined by their caretakers for a breakfast specially prepared by members of the Sierra-Oakhurst Kiwanis Club.


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