Glow sticks light way at Relay for Life

Freedom New Mexico: Liliana Castillo Barbara Palanone of Portales slowly makes her way around the track during the survivor and caregiver lap during Friday’s Relay for Life at Ned Houk Park.

By Mickey Winfield: Freedom New Mexico

If Friday’s Clovis Relay for Life at Ned Houk Park is any indication, cancer has a tough fight on its hands.

More than 1,000 people flooded the park, north of Clovis, to show their support for loved ones, raise money for cancer research and simply bond with other cancer survivors by taking turns walking the track overnight.

Connie Harrison and Shannon Jackson were at the event with a team of Curry County employees.

“I lost my second mother,” Harrison said, “the mother to my best friend about two years ago. It’s a very good feeling (to be out here right now) and to see all the survivors.”

Jackson also had personal stories to tell.

“Everybody has been affected (by cancer) in some way,” Jackson said. “My father-in-law (prostrate cancer) passed away, I had a very good friend that passed away. It’s just such a good cause. This weekend is in honor of him,” Jackson said through tears.

According to event co-chairman, Rebecca Holt, 56 teams participated this year, down from 88 teams last year. But she also said that there were more total participants this year than last. Holt estimated between 1,000 and 2,000 participants Friday night.

“It’s awesome, it’s great,” Holt said. “The weather is a little chilly, but we’ve got an awesome turnout. We’ve got the most survivors I’ve ever known to come out. This is such a great community.”

The fund-raising goal is $100,000, and organizers believe they can reach that number. Last year, the event raised $102,000.

In a first for the event, a county-wide burn ban kept participants from lighting the traditional luminarias in memory of loved ones who have fallen to cancer, but organizers found a way around the problem, using glow-sticks to light the trail instead.

“At first, we thought it was (a little disappointing) because it’s never happened to us before,” Holt said. “As you’re walking, you can feel the grass is real crisp. So that kind of tells you (it’s dry).”