After two years treading the rough sports fields at Kimball High School, walkers will pound the pavement outside the West Valley Mall for the 14th annual Relay For Life of Tracy in May.
The 24-hour walkathon fundraiser for the American Cancer Society will have teams and individuals walk laps around a course in the mall’s west parking lot at 3200 Naglee Road, across from the IHOP and Olive Garden restaurants.
The move to the mall is an opportunity to get more people involved and raise more money to help cancer patients and fund research, according to Debbie Schaefer, the event chairwoman for the 2014 Tracy relay.
“I am excited by the new visibility we will have,” Schaefer said. “We will be able to reach people in the community we have not included before.”
She said participation and fundraising numbers fell last year, because of bumpy field conditions and a rocky economy.
The first 11 relays took place on the dirt track and grass football field in Tracy High School’s Wayne Schneider stadium at 315 E. 11th St.
Reconstruction of the stadium sent the relay to the sports fields at the back of the Kimball High campus at 3200 Jaguar Run in 2012 and 2013. But the uneven surface and patchy grass created problems for many participants, including cancer survivors, according to Schaefer.
“Kimball was not an ideal site because of the walking conditions,” she said. “It was a real rough surface for our survivors.”
Christie Casey, an administrative assistant at West Valley Mall, participated in the relay at Kimball High in 2012 and remembered the uneven conditions as she walked her laps.
“I had to pay attention a lot where I was walking,” Casey said. “There were lots of holes, and it’s not level at all.”
Casey said the conditions were bad for people who were sick and weak or who used wheelchairs or walkers to circle the relay course.
Schaefer said moving back to Tracy High School turned out to be impossible because of a conflict with soccer playoffs. Organizers also looked into using Lincoln Park but could not make the arrangements in time.
Michael Donaghy, the general manager of West Valley Mall, said he was happy to see the relay coming to the mall grounds. He said the relay would occupy the same area carnivals use at the mall.
“We think it’s great they are coming,” Donaghy said. “It was a logical choice. We have a flat surface and lots of parking.”
Donaghy said the mall had been getting more involved with community events and the relay was an opportunity to team up with local residents for a good cause.
“I don’t have any doubt they will increase foot traffic at the mall,” Donaghy said. “It’s a superior location; I think this will be a great time.”
All of the popular events from past relays will return, Schaefer said, including a survivor lap beginning the 24-hour event and the Luminaria Ceremony honoring patients and those who have died from cancer.
And Schaefer said being at the mall rather than in a residential neighborhood would lift some of the noise restrictions on nighttime activities.
“I know we have bigger plans. We are looking to have a lot more games and activities — we can do more because we are not surrounded by homes,” Schaefer said. “We’re looking for 24 hours of fun.”
The relay area will be fenced for security, and the parking lot lights will remain on through the night, Donaghy said.
Teams and individuals can still sign up for the relay. Schaefer said the organizers are also looking for people to help with planning and volunteering on the day of the event.
A team captains meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 20 in the Life Center room at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 1635 Chester Drive.
• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or email@example.com.
SATURDAY MAY 17
WHAT: Relay for Life Tracy
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sunday May 18
WHERE: West Valley Mall parking lot across from Olive Garden and IHOP, 3200 Naglee Road.
DETAILS: The 14th annual Relay for Life Tracy benefiting the American Cancer Society. Opening ceremonies begin at 10 a.m. May 17 followed by the survivors lap at 10:30 a.m. There will be a luminaria ceremony at 9 p.m. May 17. A fight back ceremony will be held 9 a.m. on May 18 followed by closing ceremonies at 10 a.m.
Throughout the 24-hours of the event there will be games and entertainment.
CONTACT: Sonya McIntyre at firstname.lastname@example.org or https://www.facebook.com/relayforlifetracy