An overcast, chilly day couldn't deter hundreds of people from participating in Kern County Cancer Fund's first Campout Against Cancer, where teams faced off against each other in a series of games that provided fun and camaraderie while raising money to help local families affected by cancer.
The somewhat dreary weather Saturday was offset by classic rock tunes mixed with the sound of laughter and joyful shouts upon entering the State Farm Sports Village parking lot in southwest Bakersfield. Tents set up the night before surrounded a grassy field where team booths faced the games section.
A series of "extreme" games -- including a rock wall climb and a "Human Demolition" game where the object is to shove a large inflatable tethered ball toward others and try to knock them off their platforms -- were arranged around the southern part of the field.
Mary Gillette, one of the event's organizers, said 35 teams were participating. Each team included a minimum of 10 members, with a suggested $100 raised by each member.
Some went far beyond that number. Gillette said one participant raised more than $4,000.
She said late Saturday morning that the campout had surpassed its fundraising goal of $200,000.
"It has been a phenomenal turnout," said Gillette. "This community has been so wonderful."
Profits from the event will benefit the Kern County Cancer Fund, founded in 2012 to help cover travel, lodging and medical expenses for local families affected by cancer.
Lupe Colclasure and her husband, Robert, had just finished the team games in the early afternoon and were headed back to their team booth.
Lupe said she particularly enjoyed the game where team members held hands around a giant ball covered by a map of the earth. The point of the game is to walk the ball from one point to another without any of the team members letting go of the hands of the person to either side of them.
It requires coordination and patience. Lupe said her team won twice. She was elated by their performance, and the day's turnout.
"For our first year, we couldn't ask for anything better," she said.
Briana Schechter, founder of nonprofit Second Star to the Right, had a booth set up at the northwest portion of the field. Second Star to the Right helps local families who have a child suffering from cancer.
Her parents know someone on the campout's planning committee, so she began making preparations to attend as soon as the dates were confirmed a little more than three months ago. She was looking forward to the ceremony for cancer survivors Saturday evening.
"Team Evaro" gathered about 20 members in support of Ronnie Evaro, currently battling cancer. Ronnie Evaro said it was beautiful to see the hundreds of "lanterns of hope" that were lit Friday night in honor of those who have died or are currently suffering from cancer.
His wife, Esther Evaro, and other team members personalized each of the couple dozen lanterns they purchased by painting them different colors and placing a variety of stickers on them.
"We're totally for the cause," Esther Evaro said.
For more information about the fund, go to kerncountycancerfund.org.