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Hilmar, Turlock to come together for Relay for Life
Relay for Life fundraiser pic1
The Turlock High Relay for Life team holds a drive-through dinner fundraiser at Netos Catering. - photo by Photo Contributed

It’s time once again for community members to relay for a cure, as the internationally-known nonprofit American Cancer Society’s signature event, Relay for Life, will soon be held in Turlock to generate cash for cancer research.

Relay for Life is celebrated all over the world, with four million people in 20 different countries taking part annually. To date, the worldwide phenomenon has raised nearly $5 billion to aid in the fight for a cure.

Teams camp out at a school, park or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Events are overnight and up to 24 hours long with at least one participant from each team on the track at all times.

Each team participates in fundraising in the months leading up to the event. Teams are typically made up of volunteers from businesses, groups of friends or families that wish to honor a loved one who has suffered from cancer. Additionally, Turlock High School and Pitman High School have relay teams as well.

This year, the populations of Turlock and Hilmar will join forces to raise much-needed funds and awareness to save lives from the terrible disease — a first for the event in recent years. In the past, the two towns held separate Relay for Life events, but it made more sense for the neighboring communities to host the relay together this year according to Relay Event Leadership Team people lead Kristin Bettencourt.

“Hilmar’s Relay for Life was wildly successful its first few years, but the cancer society found that doing two separate events between the two communities was spreading the staff and donors very thin,” said Bettencourt.

As ELT people lead, it’s Bettencourt’s job to help recruit teams for Relay for Life as well as mentor them. So far, there are 30 teams participating in the Turlock-Hilmar event, which have raised about $27,000 for the cause so far. However, teams often wait until the day of the event to turn their money in. It is Bettencourt’s hope that at least 44 teams will join the fundraising efforts by the day of the event to help reach the monetary goal of $160,000 raised.

The THS team has been working since last fall to raise money for the event, said Bettencourt, selling candles, holding a Neto’s fundraiser and selling business card-sized ads to local organizations. To date, the high school team comprised of nearly 200 students has raised $15,000.

“We’ve been chipping away at it, and I’m really proud of them,” said Bettencourt, who is also coordinator of the THS Relay for Life club. “The community has really embraced their fundraising which is awesome.”

Another team working hard to raise funds for cancer research is the Hilmar Cheese team, which has raised over $13,000 and is also a sponsor for the event along with Emanuel Medical Center.

“We are thrilled the Hilmar Cheese team is back,” said Bettencourt. “They’re raising money already like crazy.”

While there are always fun happenings around the track as participants walk, Bettencourt hopes to liven things up during the event’s overnight portion this year, where in the past things have tended to “die down.”

“We’re working hard to remind people that we walk for 24 hours because cancer never sleeps,” she said. “We’re trying to put more fun things in the middle of the night without disrupting neighbors.”

In addition to the entertainment provided during the relay, participants and attendees can pay $10 for a food bracelet that will ensure them four meals throughout the event. The Luminaria Ceremony is another can’t-miss aspect of the event said Bettencourt, where those who are fighting cancer and those who have lost their battles are honored by those in attendance.

“It’s always very moving, and very poignant,” said Bettencourt. “If you don’t know what relay is about, it can be summed up at that ceremony.”

Relay for Life will take place beginning at 8:30 a.m. May 17 at Dutcher Middle School, 1441 Colorado Ave.  There is still time for teams to sign up for the event, and those interested in doing so may email Bettencourt at or call 209-815-3731.