Relay for Life survivors

The community of Bakersfield has a niche for local causes. It’s that passion that has made the Bakersfield Relay For Life one of the biggest in the nation, raising approximately $800,000 last year.

Every year, the American Cancer Society brings Relay for Life to Bakersfield for a weekend of showing support for a global cause.

“Relay For Life is a year-round fundraiser event only to be celebrated that weekend,” said Donna Hermann, the senior community development manager for the American Cancer Society’s Bakersfield chapter. As Relay for Life heads into its 28th year in Bakersfield, Hermann reflects on what Relay for Life is and what it’s done for community.

“Relay For Life is a 24-hour fundraising event to raise money for cancer research, for patient services, advocacy and education,” said Hermann. “We fundraise all year long but the actual weekend of the event is to get everybody together for one common (cause) where we are celebrating survivors, we’re honoring the survivors, we’re remembering those that we lost to cancer and we are fighting back against cancer. Those are kind of the three main components. We celebrate, we remember and we fight back.”

Relay For Life’s itinerary celebrates survivors and raises awareness for many different types of cancers.

“We are a global organization with a local impact,” said Hermann.

The majority of the money raised at Relay For Life goes to research. However, Hermann explains that without research, there wouldn’t be as many survivors as there today.

There are also a lot of local services that are provided that many are not aware of.

“With the money raised from Relay For Life, we provide transportation for patients that gets them to their lifesaving treatments center at no charge for them,” said Hermann. Along with transportation, they also provide free wigs for patients.

The community of Bakersfield, although big in size, has a small-town feel to it – at least that’s how Hermann sees it.

“Bakersfield is one of the most giving communities I know of, where everybody comes together for common causes,” she said. “Bakersfield gives. It’s an amazing community. As many charities and nonprofits that there are in this town, to still be able to do what we do is pretty amazing.

“Everybody supports everybody. With American Cancer Society, we support other nonprofits in this community as well. I think we all support each other.”

Herman refers to Relay For Life’s motto as “Cancer doesn’t sleep, so why should we?” The idea is that when one walks the track, they are walking in the shoes of a survivor. The event takes place on May 4 and 5 at the Kern County Fairgrounds. The event is free and open to the public.

“I want to invite everyone to come to the event,” said Hermann. “It doesn’t cost anything … come out for a great day and a great cause.” 

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