Survivors celebrated, victims remembered and more than $100,000 to fight the disease raised at second event in Taft


The stories flashed across the large screen at the back of a stage that anchored a ring of cramped campsites at Taft Union High School’s Patterson/O’Brien Field.

There was the image of the handsome young James David Lewis resplendent in a light blue tux, and Chief Hacker, and “Baby Diesel” Noah Alexander.

Running alongside their pictures were the words noting the forms of cancer that took their lives.

The stories were told in more than a thousand little white glowing paper bags that ringed the track.

They bore the names of still more victims – some deceased and others who are survivors.

That’s what Taft’s second annual Relay for Life 24-hour walkathon was all about – honoring the victims of cancer and celebrating the survivors.

And, it was an enormous success.

The 49 teams and individuals that made up Relay raised more than $108,000 for the American Cancer Society’s fight against the disease that touches so many lives.

“Our goal was $75,000, and look what we just did,” beamed event chair LaNell Howell moments after the grand total was announced.  “This is just incredible.”

Friends and family joined nearly 800 participants on the 49 teams camping out overnight and orchestrating one of the Westside’s most successful fund-raising events – if not the biggest.

The teams raised nearly $80,000 before the weekend event and continued bringing in the cash with a variety of activities.

Megaswope’s Supercrew hawked superhero capes and masks, Little Red Wagon Pullin’ for a Cure offered a minicupcake if you bought a raffle ticket, Kern Street Pharmacy sold carne sada and tacos, Walk Stars sold “Cancer Sucks” T-shirts, West Kern Water District raffled off $500 in cash, God Glam and Girlfriends offered up an impressive array of jewelry, and the bright yellow clad E-Lemon-Ate Cancer team baked and sold pastries.

Teams held fund-raising events leading up to the big weekend – raffles, car washes, a softball tournament.

Channel 17 television anchors Jim Scott and Robin Mangrin helped kick off the event Saturday morning on a bright note. 

A parade of hundreds of cancer survivors made the first lap around the track followed by caregivers.

While the participants walked and teams continued to generate cash for the cause, people got soaked in the dunk booth, danced and played games.

Music blared and Taft’s Got Talent contest winner Baeleigh Bevin entertained with a concert.  Three local bands performed, and there were demonstrations of kick boxing and the new exercise craze Zumba.

When the sun went down, the volume went down as well and a quiet settled over the venue and the mood became somber with the luminaria ceremony that paid tribute to the victims.

The festive atmosphere returned with a dance party on the field, a crazy pajama contest, pizza delivered to each campsite at midnight and movies running all night long.

It all culminated with the “Fight Back” ceremony Sunday morning and reached a crescendo with the announcement of total amount of money raised.