McALLEN - Relay for Life of the Upper Valley held their annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society on Saturday, May 20. This year, over 100 teams came out to walk the track at McAllen Veterans Memorial Stadium in honor of those fighting and those who have lost the fight to cancer.

To illustrate the ongoing battle and signify that cancer never sleeps, teams continuously circle the field with at least one member walking throughout the eight-hour event. Survivors, which include those still facing the disease, opened the relay by taking the initial lap around track as the crowd cheered them on. Caregivers were recognized next, and, after, the teams were called up one by one to begin their walk.

Groups from Walgreens, H-E-B, Mission CISD, Lacks, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and South Texas Health System were among the participants. With their ornately decorated Spirits Sticks in hand, families, schools, hospitals and businesses proudly represented their teams, each fundraising for a great organization.

“Raising these funds is to fund research...and advocacy,” said Community Manager April Chapa. “We fight for certain insurances to cover chemo…And then, of course we have wigs, scarves, head coverings for free at our office…We also give rides to people that need rides to their treatment.”

Chapa added that the funds are also going toward the 2018 opening of Hope Lodge in Houston. The lodge will provide free housing for patients receiving treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center on a first-come, first-served basis.

Mission CISD, the top fundraiser last year and this year, was well-represented at the relay. Teachers and students from the district’s high schools, junior highs, and elementary schools were in attendance, with Mission High School’s drumline playing as they walked. Mission CISD Superintendent Dr. Ricardo Lopez, who led the group and waved their Spirit Stick, was happy with his district’s enthusiasm and dedication.

“Cancer knows no boundaries and I know that so many people have gone through it. I’ve seen it personally, and so it’s something that we can have a common platform on,” Lopez said. “I’m real proud of my community, my teachers, because they really care, and they’re doing everything they can to find a cure.”

Throughout the day, people enjoyed food and live entertainment. Team campsites were set up in the center of the field for members to rest, with some organizations providing freebies for visitors. Going along with this year’s Around the World theme, teams decorated their tents as specific countries to symbolize the effort to find a cure across the globe. For Dr. Lopez, that effort starts here in the Valley.

“When you’ve got caring communities that don’t only come from Mission, but from McAllen and Shary[land], everybody wins,” Lopez said. “It’s a healthy competition, but we’re all looking for a cure.”

After dark, the stadium lights were turned off, and luminarias were lit in honor of those who have died from cancer and to celebrate the survivors. Progressively, individuals who had spouses, parents, relatives, and friends affected by cancer lit their luminarias until the entire track was lined in light. In the bleachers, luminarias spelled out the word “hope” as teams watched in silence before a final lap around the field. Cancer’s far reach was poignantly shown. But, those affected could look on and see that there was still hope, and that they were definitely not alone.

For more information or to join Relay for Life of the Upper Valley, visit relayforlife.org/uppervalleytx or their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RelayUpperValley.