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Community unites in Relay for Life

20140411 MISSION Relay-for-Life 1686 featureSome ran, wearing headphones to help pass the time, huffing and puffing around Tom Landry Stadium in Mission on Saturday morning.

Others walked casually around the track in pairs or groups, laughing or chatting.

All of them had been touched by cancer and wanted to do something about it. During the 16th American Cancer Society Relay For Life, groups from around the Upper Valley joined to raise money for the agency. At least one person from each group had a member walking on the track at all times.

“Relay is a unique opportunity for our community to come together to celebrate people who have battled cancer, remember those we’ve lost, and fight back against the disease,” Carlos Contreras, American Cancer Society specialist, stated in a news release. “Many of the participants are cancer survivors, which serves as a reminder that the Upper Valley is not immune to this disease and that by participating in relay, we are joining with the American Cancer Society’s efforts to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays.”

Contreras did not have figures on how many participated or how much money was raised as of press time.

Around 7 p.m. Saturday, the group helped two young ladies reach their fundraising goals–each girl had been a few hundred dollars short. The help meant each one of them would follow-through with her pledge to cut their hair when she raised enough money.

Nina Rodriguez and Darrian Earhart, of McAllen, fulfilled their obligation on stage in front of the crowd.

With tears filling her eyes, Earhart said she stepped up to help in honor of a little girl in her church who died from leukemia a couple of years ago. Members of MACE, or Mustangs Aspiring Cancer Elimination, out of McAllen Memorial High School, raised $4,200 all together.

Earhart had been growing her curly dirty blonde hair for two years. She, like many high school girls, was attached to it.

“It was kind of like a big deal for me to give it up,” Earhart said. “It was a really big sacrifice, but I really felt it in my heart to give it.”

Rodriguez, a student at Texas A&M University, said she has a friend who’s been diagnosed with cancer. She raised $2,500 for the cause, and celebrated by cutting the dark hair she’d been growing since 2008.

Meanwhile, dozens of Sharyland students played limbo in the middle of the field as they waited for their turn to take the track.

Several clubs from the high school were represented, and Dana Rodriguez, a senior representing the Leo Club, said they sold “hope tickets” for $2 each. In exchange for buying a ticket, students could write a message, and the group had a sign made. Words like “hope” and “stay strong” were the biggest because students wrote those words the most, Rodriguez said.

The student groups had been approached by a classmate who is a leukemia survivor.

“Basically, she just inspired us,” Rodriguez said.

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