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Turlock, Hilmar prepare to relay for life
relay for life
Turlock High, Pitman High and Dutcher Middle School teams hold a joint Relay for Life fundraiser at Netos catering in March. - photo by Photo Contributed

Relay for Life has become a national phenomenon which raises much-needed funds and awareness for cancer research, and locally, residents from both Turlock and Hilmar have taken the matter to heart. For the second consecutive year, the two communities will host a joint event to aid in the fight for a cure.

So far, the Turlock-Hilmar Relay for Life has raised a total of $28,544.93 between 25 teams comprised of local businesses, community members and school groups. Hilmar Cheese Company is the top-fundraising team with just 18 days left before the big event, having raised $13,990 so far towards the event’s goal of $125,000.

Turlock High School’s Relay for Life team consistently raises a large sum of money for the event, coordinator Kristin Bettencourt said, and the team’s enthusiasm also inspired Dutcher Middle School to create its own relay team this year.

So far, Dutcher has raised $3,000, while THS has accumulated almost $5,000. Bettencourt said that the THS team is hoping to raise $15,000 this year thanks to help from its 175 student volunteers, and that much of the money the team has raised has yet to be counted.

The cause deeply resonates with students every year, she added.

“I don’t have one student in the group this year that hasn’t been touched by cancer,” Bettencourt said. “They really seem to wrap their heads around it and understand it’s not just about research.”

Relay for Life meetings at THS not only serve as a way to come up with creative fundraisers, like the team’s business card advertisement sales or a recent Neto’s barbecue fundraiser, but Bettencourt also uses the time as an opportunity to talk about cancer prevention, teaching students about the dangers of smoking, the importance of healthy eating habits and other preventative measures.

While the Turlock-Hilmar Relay for Life will host familiar Relay for Life happenings, like the Luminaria ceremony which honors those who have battled or are still battling cancer, there will be several new aspects to this year’s event.

While the city’s Relay for Life event lasted for 24 hours in the past, this year, the relay will take place over the course of 14 hours. Bettencourt said that committee members made this decision in an effort to boost attendance at the event.

“We’re bringing relay down to help bring it back up,” she said. “There’s now less time that people have to be committed, so we hope it raises the enthusiasm and energy.”

In place of a longer relay, committee members have worked to make other aspects of the event more exciting and have even worked together to bring new features to the day.

From 11 p.m. to midnight, a karaoke dance party will close out the ceremony, and during the day attendees can shop and eat thanks to a variety of vendors, such as Rita’s Italian Ice. There will be entertainment for children, too, thanks to a kid’s zone, and live music can be enjoyed from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“If we can up our game during the day for a couple of years, we can go this shorter route and then maybe back into the 24-hour model once we’ve built our numbers back up,” Bettencourt said.

The Turlock-Hilmar Relay for Life will take place from 10 a.m. to midnight April 21 at Dutcher Middle School, 1441 Colorado Ave.