Hand in glove. That’s how I answer the question regarding the relationship between the Kern County Cancer Fund and the American Cancer Society.
We are one of very few cities in the United States to be fortunate enough to have two high-profile, cancer-related organizations in our community dedicated to helping cancer patients.
The American Cancer Society’s “Relay for Life” event held here in Bakersfield is internationally known and has received well-deserved recognition for the amount of money raised for cancer research. The research money raised by Bakersfield’s “Relay” has helped many Kern County cancer residents celebrate birthdays beyond their expectations.
The Kern County Cancer Fund’s “Campout Against Cancer” is a growing community event whose money assists qualified local cancer patients with daily medical expenses. Full disclosure, I am on the board of the Kern County Cancer Fund.
My “Relay” journey began in 2006 through music. Thee Majestics, a band I play bass guitar for, had been asked to donate our time and play for “Relay.” Because we drove though the “Relay” backstage entrance, I could not gauge the size, joyous magnitude or celebratory significance of the event.
It was the band’s inaugural performance at the 2006 event held on the soccer fields at Cal State Bakersfield. I had read about “Relay” but am sorry to say, until that day, I had no first-hand knowledge or exposure to it. Thee Majestics was just returning from an early afternoon gig in Taft with about 100 people in attendance. We made it to CSUB just in time for our sound check at “Relay.”
Just hours before, Thee Majestics was performing on the blacktop of a dusty Taft basketball court.Now this…a huge stage with the latest and greatest sound equipment on one of the largest stages in front of one of the largest audiences for which we have ever had the privilege to perform.
It was just my band mates and me backstage. Sound technicians were scurrying about as we walked up the high steps to the stage. As we reached the top, I looked out over the sea of tents, smoke from barbecues and masses of festive people everywhere. I was truly overwhelmed.
In my own imaginary world, I knew at that instant what it must have felt like to be Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock in 1969. No, there weren’t 400,000 people at “Relay” that day, but I pretended it to be so. I also knew at that instant I had to bring my family to “Relay” the next day. I wanted my children to see, hear and feel what compassion, helping and caring for people you don’t even know feels like.
We went that day in 2006 and have been going every year since, as many of you have. What we did not know was how cancer would soon invade our lives and change everything we loved and held precious.
Over the next 10 years, we lost several family members including my bride of 40 years, Susie, to cancer. My family quickly learned how sadly prevalent cancer had always been in our circle of family and friends.
Our “Wavehog” team will be at “Relay” and “Campout” this year. It is my family’s way of fighting cancer. And it is our way of keeping Susie’s voice and loving spirit alive.
To those competing in this year’s “Campout” team challenges, be forewarned. The “Wavehogs” are back and ready for you. Bring your “A” game, baby. You are going to need it.
As some have made out, there are no sides to pick between these two major fund-raising events. There is only one side — the side of helping those cancer families in need of emotional, financial and spiritual support during their individual journey.
The Wavehogs look forward to seeing you amid the sea of tents, masses of festive people with love and compassion everywhere at both events. “Relay” and “Campout” ... hand in glove.
Email contributing columnist Steve Flores at email@example.com. His work appears here every third Monday; the views expressed are his own.