Citrus Heights Sentinel Logo

Citrus Heights Relay for Life raises over $18k to fight cancer

Relay for Life Citrus Heights
Participants walk past illuminated bleachers at the San Juan High School track field during a “Luminaria lap” towards the close of Saturday’s Relay for Life event. // CH Sentinel

Updated June 13, 7:19 p.m.–
Organizers said multiple teams and over two hundred people took part in the 13th annual Relay for Life fundraiser at San Juan High School on Saturday. The yearly effort seeks to raise funds for the American Cancer Society as well as support those affected by cancer.

“Compared to last year the turnout is significantly higher,” said the cancer society’s Community Manager Tamika Stove, who reported the event had raised more than $18,000. “All our numbers are up this year.”

The relay kicked off with a ceremony on the high school’s track field at 11 a.m. that featured Citrus Heights Vice Mayor Jeff Slowey and event co-founders Bill Van Duker and Diane Ebbitt. Various laps and activities like “dunk a cop” were held throughout the day, with police raising about $160 from their dollar-a-ball dunk tank and $50 from a “fake jail” setup, according to Sgt. Jason Baldwin.

The sergeant said the Citrus Heights Police Department relay team had been competing with a team from city hall to see who could raise the most funds. Halfway through the day on Saturday, he conceded that his team had been “womped,” with police pulling in about $2,300 in donations and city hall pulling in more than $6,000. Both teams had begun raising funds at least a month in advance of the relay.

Other community sponsors included Food 4 Less, Dutch Bros and Sutter Health, along with many others who had tents placed around the track during the event.

“This is a great way to fight against the disease, and it’s also a great team-building event,” said Mark Cimino, of Citrus Heights-based Cimino Care. He called the event an “all-around positive experience” and said his group had brought out about 20 people to participate in the relay.

43-year-old relay participant Scott Hansen said he was walking for a friend who was battling cancer. He called the evening’s “Luminaria Ceremony” the highlight of the event, which featured hundreds of illuminated white bags lining the track, each dedicated to a lost loved one or cancer survivor. The bags also spelled out the words “HOPE!” and “CURE!” in lit patterns on the bleachers.

“I don’t know if they’re ever going to find a cure for cancer, but supporting the cause is beneficial,” said Hansen.

The 12-hour event was held from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., concluding with a closing ceremony at 10:30 p.m. to focus on committing to fight cancer over the next year and remembering those whose lives have been lost.

In a news release, Stove said thousands of Relay for Life fundraisers are held around the globe each year to raise money for the American Cancer Society. She said the events feature teams and individuals camping out at a school, park, or fairground, with each taking turns walking or running around a track or path — with a goal to always have someone taking a turn walking the track throughout the entire event.

Stove said the dozen or so volunteers who helped put on the event have all had cancer touch their lives in a close way.

“This year was pretty personal,” said relay volunteer Mari Ditgen, who lost her father recently to cancer after a 16 year battle with the disease. “I relay for my dad; I fight because he fought.”

Ditgen said she was encouraged to see the number of participants in the event had grown compared to prior years.

“We just wanted to keep it going last year, so to see it grow so much and the numbers to be so much better this year is just a joy.”


Like local news? Sign up for The Sentinel’s free email edition and get two emails a week with all local news and no spam, ever. (Click here)