With only $42,106.01 out of the expected $60,000 raised by volunteers and sponsors by the time of the final lap around the track Sunday morning, organizers were left wondering what might have been the cause for the paltry participation.
“We’re way down this year,” said Newman’s Vern Snodderly, who was in charge of verifying the money raised by participants. “This is slightly below our average, so we’re gonna make ‘em pay for next year,” Snodderly said jokingly in reference to next year’s 10-year anniversary of Patterson’s Relay.
The rules of the relay require at least one member of each of the 30 registered teams to stay on the track for the duration of the 24-hour event. However, by 7 a.m. Sunday morning, with two hours left in the relay, only a small handful of walkers could be seen on the track. Empty swaths of the football field’s synthetic surface could be seen where tents and campsites would normally be during prior years’ events.
Even before the 24-hour walkathon began, guest speaker Mike Anderson of the Elijah B. Hayes American Legion Post No. 168 gave a passionate speech and grave outlook over the number of supporters.
As a three-time cancer stricken member of the Patterson community, Anderson did not hide how aggravated he was by the small turnout or lack of support.
“The tents used to take over the whole field,” he said to the crowd congregated just behind the end zone on Saturday morning. “Now you see empty spaces in their place. Cancer kills indiscriminately—it is nobody’s friend, but we see it all the time. Should we have to reinvigorize what we go through every day of the week just to keep people coming?”
Teams were less willing to stay the night at Patterson Community Stadium this year as well. Many members were witnessed leaving the stadium following Saturday night’s luminary ceremony, or even within the wee hours of the morning.
“I lasted until about 1 o’clock,” Team Unity’s Robert Colindres said while taking down the team’s tent Sunday morning. “They wanted me to be strong in the morning so I went home to sleep. I stayed out here all night every other time.”
Even event organizers wasted little time in wrapping up Sunday’s portion of the relay, working to take apart the stage before the closing ceremonies had commenced.
But despite the lack in participation and fundraising, the spirit of those who did take part in this year’s relay continued to demonstrate high amounts of enthusiasm in supporting the cause.
Patterson FFA’s team had a large number of young supporters available throughout the day’s event.
Ivan Barbontin, a 17-year-old junior at Patterson High School, said Patterson FFA decided to come out to support Relay for Life of Patterson after fellow member Samantha Calvert, 15, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma last year.
“I came here to support her,” said Barbontin. “We are not going to let her go through this alone. We are best friends, and we’ll do everything we can for her. Just the thought of this made me so sad, I knew we wanted to do something about it.”
Calvert, who sported a red scarf throughout the event, said she was entirely grateful for the support, especially when she began losing her hair in November 2013 shortly after being diagnosed.
“I was really scared, but my family and friends have helped me through everything,” she said cheerfully. “Some of my friends shaved their heads with me so I didn’t have to go through it alone. It’s pretty awesome to know that a lot of people supported me. I didn’t feel alone.”
Ted Young of Team Noah could be seen smiling from his seat behind a pair of purple toilets that sat track side as an added fundraiser during the event.
“[Mayor Luis Molina] raised $201 sitting on the toilet; with as slow as it was I’m surprised he even got that!” Young said.
Eleven employees from the Patterson and Westley McDonalds volunteered their time for the ninth consecutive year as well, serving up a free pancake and sausage breakfast from the stadium’s concession stand on Sunday morning.
They donated enough for 200 people and had the ability to order more meals if need be.
But so few had stuck around for Sunday morning’s breakfast that seconds were offered to participants in order to distribute all 200 meals.
During Sunday morning’s closing ceremony, Patterson’s Cheryl Young was named the new chairperson of the Patterson Relay for Life, while awards for Top Team Fundraising went to Team Never Weaken Always Fight, raising $5,534.15, and Team Captain Graciela Molina.
The Top Participant Fundraising award went to Susan Pavlakis from Team Never Weaken Always Fight.
The Spirit Award went to Students Hunting 4 Cancer Solutions. The Campsite Award went to Team Salinas, and the Post Event Fundraising award from 2013 went to Let’s Do This Team Padilla.
Contact the Patterson Irrigator at 892-6187 or firstname.lastname@example.org.