BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — On Saturday the Kern County Fairgrounds should have been packed amid the annual Bakersfield Relay For Life event. But because of the pandemic, that’s not happening, and it’s part of a bigger problem that’s been hurting the American Cancer Society in a big way.
“Nationwide our operating budget is about 700 million dollars. Right now because of the loss of our events, we are 200 million dollars down. That’s a 30 percent loss," said Donna Hermann, the event manager for Relay for Life of Bakersfield.
And those hundreds of millions of dollars are crucial to the American Cancer Society for research, patient support, and prevention. Thousands of Relay for Life fundraising events benefiting the society take place around the world, but officials say Bakersfield has the largest one, with about 10,000 people participating, usually wearing purple as a symbol of hope. But the virus has postponed it this year.
“The American Cancer Society has never faced a threat like the coronavirus.” Hermann said.
Hermann is a cancer survivor herself. And so is Gilbert Carmona. Who praises events like Relay for Life for funding research for things like robotic-assisted surgery.
“I was able to be back at work two weeks after the surgery because the incisions themselves were minimal," he said.
Important research like that is pushing many in Bakersfield to relay from home this year. The event usually consists of walking laps around a track and camping, so some like Gilbert and his wife Tina, who has lost several family members to cancer, will participate in their front yard.
“There will be balloons, there will be decorations, and then there will be our tent out there, and we personally are going to continue our survivor laps," she said.
Dozens of groups are participating in the stay-at-home Relay For Life. but fundraising goals are projected to be far less than usual. To learn more about the American Cancer Society or help out on their website.