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Shining a light of hope in the battle against cancer

Jarid Shipley
Appeal Staff Writer
BRAD HORN/Nevada AppealA luminary for Joey Cusumano, an 11-year-old Carson City martial arts student who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease earlier this year, glows while walkers circle the track at Carson High School during the Relay for Life fundraiser on Saturday night.
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For just over 16 hours, the stadium at Carson High School took on a life of its own. People from all walks of life, backgrounds and parts of Northern Nevada became residents of a tent city, donating their time to a common goal: bringing an end to cancer.

“To describe this, one word: Awesome. It’s incredible the turnout we had,” said Joyce Whitney-Silva, Carson City Relay for Life event chair. “The excitement, the energy level was up until about 2 a.m., then we had a lull but now it’s back up.”

The annual Relay for Life is a national fundraiser for the American Cancer Society during which teams raise money and take part in an overnight event that sees volunteers walk around the track throughout the night.

The Carson City event, held Saturday night into Sunday morning, raised more than $132,000 from its 66 teams, close to triple the amount raised in 2006.

“It’s about a community that takes up the fight and we asked this community to take part,” Whitney-Silva said.

The team from Sierra Floor Coverings was honored for raising the most as a team, donating more than $9,300 to the ACS.

“We had a goal of raising $1,500 and every time we’d surpass it, I’d raise it by $2,000 and they would step up,” said Tracey Mendoza, team captain. “We have a very strong and hearty crew of overachievers.”

Among the top fundraisers was Hannah Golik, who at 7 years old raised about $1,500.

She said she did it by selling lemonade, recycling, sending letters to her friends and relatives and putting out a swear jar at her family reunion.

Tim Angello, event activities chair, said that he was surprised by the amount of energy teams had during the early morning hours.

“We had wheel barrel and shopping cart races at 2 a.m. and we had 60 people participate and we had a good turn out during the tug-of-war,” Angello said.

For many, including Angello, the event is a way to raise money and honor those who have lost the battle against the disease.

“My best college buddy died a week before his 21st birthday and this is how I remember him and celebrate his life,” Angello said.

Rhonda Price, a member of the team from Sierra Floor Coverings, said, “My dad passed away in August from cancer. If we can raise enough money to fight it and find a cure, then it’s worth it.”

Many of the teams were holding fundraisers during Saturday’s event, ranging from selling drinks and baked goods, hosting karaoke contests or conducting silent auctions.

More than $25,000 was raised from fundraisers conducted during the Relay for Life event.

Brenda Quilling, the event’s team recruiter, said the committee will begin planning the 2008 event early next month, which for many of them has become a labor of love.

“This has brought back the passion inside me and given me something good to be able to give back,” she said.

– Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.