Relay for Life of Bakersfield celebrated the start of team preparation for this year’s relay with a kickoff event on Saturday.

The kickoff, held at the Spectrum Amphitheatre at the Park at River Walk on Stockdale Highway, featured words from relay organizers and participants about this year’s event, to be held May 5 and 6 at the Kern County Fairgrounds.

Several booths were also on hand where people could register to participate in the relay or volunteer, as well as pick up information about this year’s event, fundraising instructions and more.

“This is the biggest relay ever because of all the people that put their time and their effort into it,” said Brent Michaels, who helps organize the relay. “We could not do it without our teams and everyone going out there and doing fundraisers. Kudos to you guys.”

A few people took the stage to tell personal stories of how Relay for Life has affected them or someone close to them.

One such person was Michelle Reinhart, an ACS regional mission lead from Rancho Cucamonga, who told a story about her brother Jeff, who was diagnosed with inoperable stage 4 colorectal cancer at age 30 and was told he would have around two years to live but was able to live five years.

Months after beginning chemotherapy treatments, Reinhart said Jeff told her that he heard about Relay for Life and wanted to participate. She said he loved his first relay experience and began going to others across the state along with his family.

Reinhart said her brother always expressed optimism about fighting the cancer. However, she said she later found out from him that the positivity he expressed outwardly didn’t reflect how he was feeling on the inside.

“He told me that he was so glad that he found (Relay for Life), because Relay saved his life,” she said. “He said that he wanted to kill himself every single day until he went to his first relay. Jeff was a first-responder and he had a gun. Every day he talked himself out of shooting himself. I thank God for Relay every day because it gave me five years with my brother that I would never have had.”

Scotty Miller, a 15-year cancer survivor who also lost her husband Bob to cancer, spoke about what she believe Relay for Life represents.

“It is a day of hope and friendship. It’s a time to reflect on the cancer journey,” she said. “I believe in what the American Cancer Society does, and I will continue to relay as long as I can help find a cure for all kinds of cancer. Won’t you help me knock cancer off the board?”

Relay for Life is a nationwide event that raises money and awareness for the American Cancer Society with the ultimate goal of finding a cure for cancer. Teams made up of cancer survivors, family and other supporters walk or run around a track for up to 24 hours, which symbolizes the fact that cancer never sleeps.

To join a relay team or for more information, visit bit.ly/2CYKRHG.

Joseph Luiz can be reached at 661-395-7368. Follow him on Twitter: @JLuiz_TBC.

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