It's kind of amazing what you can buy at Bakersfield's Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society's massive annual fundraiser for cancer research and prevention.
Homemade jewelry, quilts, cookies from the Cal State Bakersfield NORML club (not to worry, cannabis-free only) snow cones, baby caps knitted in the shape of a woman's breast (adorable!), painted rocks and even butterflies.
There seems to be no end to the creative ways Relay teams have devised to raise one more dollar to help "find a cure."
Dunk tanks? Of course. Belly-dancing lessons? You bet. Bra pong? Oh yeah, that too.
The vast Relay grounds at Saturday's all-day-and-into-the-night event were filled with dedicated people united in their quest to help find a cure for one of humanity's most prevalent and dreaded -- even hated -- diseases.
Seriously, the anti-cancer sentiment was fierce.
Several booths had toilets, even makeshift outhouses, where participants were invited to "flush" cancer (for a small fee, of course). And a hot-selling button used a certain four-letter word that can't be repeated in a family newspaper to describe the wearer's feelings toward the disease.
Cancer was definitely not welcome at Bakersfield's 23rd annual Relay event, which was expected to raise more than $1 million from the nearly 300 teams.
This is one of more than 5,000 Relay events around the country and world. There are even virtual Relay for Life events.
That's a lot of money pouring into cancer research.
Is it helping?
That was just one of the questions that came up at a panel discussion Saturday.
Cancer treatment has advanced by leaps and bounds in some respects, said Dr. Vinh-Linh Nguyen with Bakersfield Hematology Oncology.
New drugs have helped not only prolong lives, but given people much better quality of life.
"But there's still so much about cancer that we don't understand," he acknowledged.
That's why volunteers for new clinical trials are so important, he said.
"Research works," said Dr. Betty Arvizu with the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center. Finding a cure means taking a lot of little steps along the way.
For many, though, those future breakthroughs and discoveries will be too late.
Booth after booth paid testament to that sad fact with photos of loved ones, their dates of death and the type of cancer that took them tucked next to the colorful garden plates, frozen bandannas or Twinkies in "Minions" wrappers that team members eagerly hawked to passers-by.
For cousins Gabriella Jackson, 12, and Solaye Curtis, 8, it was their grandmother's best friend and her husband, both taken by cancer, who bring their entire family to Relay each year. This was the girls' fourth Relay.
"It was really sad," Gabriella said of her grandmother's friends.
The girls were selling butterflies from Shafter's Insect Lore for $1.
"When you release it, you say a prayer for someone," Gabriella explained.
Inside the small pyramid-shaped box sat a beautiful monarch butterfly.
It was still at first, keeping its orange and black wings tightly together. As the sunlight warmed it, it stretched out its wings once, then twice.
Then, all at once, it flitted toward the sky and fluttered away -- free.