Last Friday evening sponsors, survivors and this year's committee gathered together at the 10th Annual Kick-off dinner held at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Lenwood.

Co-Chairs Renita Wickes, JR Sanchez and Martha Rochelle put together a great program, including survivor stories by Carmen Cortinas and Deede Crigler, introduction of the committee, a luminaria ceremony and a beautifully rendered song by Leslie Smith followed by a short speech by JR Sanchez emphasizing the mission of the relay.

There was a lot of humor as the Fight Back closing had staff donning boxing gloves and headgear to emphasis fighting cancer to survive.

The luminaria ceremony was a duplicate of what is done at the relay. At each place setting was a lumineria sack, either honoring or in memory of someone and we put a light stick in it as is done on the evening of the actual ceremony at dark.

A very moving part of the evening was putting survivor sashes on the survivors present. This was new and very effective. I had no idea that some of my friends were survivors. Kathi Brant has survived cancer twice. Others were Alex Ross, Deede Crigler, Carmen Cortinas, Joyce Armstrong and Crystal Robinson. I knew Renita Wicks was a survivor, but the shocker for me was Robert Rochelle. I had always thought that Martha was the survivor because for such a long time she has been an important part of Relay here, but she does it to honor her husband.

Regina Lawrence was introduced as the new High Desert American Cancer Society coordinator with headquarters in Riverside and satellite offices in Palmdale. We met her at the first meeting and she's really a great person to work with.

Sponsors present included Robert Lewis, general manager of Wal-Mart, Margaret Baca and Dianne Jaramillo of Dress Barn and Jennifer Rodriquez, general manager of Tangier Outlet Center. If I've left anyone out, I apologize.

Jennifer Rodriquez presented Renita a check for $29,277, raised at Tangier Outlet Center. When presenting the check she told of the two fundraisers they held out there. Stores at Tangier Outlets sold close to 25,000 Pink Ribbon cards at a dollar each. Jennifer wanted to give Coach Outlet recognition for selling over 14,000 of the Pink Ribbon Cards. The other fundraiser was the 12th Annual Cruise for the Cure car show which featured over 80 cars from the entire High Desert. This activity takes six months preparation and is done by the Apple Valley Over The Hill Gang Car Club. This year they raised $4,500.

During the evening Martha Rochelle, auctioneer par excellence, auctioned off a blanket made for the relay, bought by Pat Esquivel. I had wondered why Pat had changed into blue boxing shorts when she came in as it was cool in there. When the fighters came on I understood.
The relay store was open, like it is at the relay. It was manned by Deede Crigler and merchandise was sold. Some merchandise was given as door prizes by the Prize Patrol. This happened three times during the evening.

Some of the others present included Lisa Spurlin, Jackie Randa, Alma Rochelle, Ron and PJ Stark, Cindy Charlton, Nakayla and Tshara Wickes and Erica Smith.

A buffet meal was served culminating in a super cake-cutting.

Those that didn't go this year missed a fun evening. It was a great start for the Tenth Annual Relay for Life to be held next May 17 and 18.

ABOUT THE WRITER Bette "Bee Jay" Moses is a special events correspondent to the Desert Dispatch. She can be reached at (760) 987-6915 or dolphinlady9@verizon.net.