The weather forecast was tentative Friday, but even if it had poured it would not have “rained on their parade” at the Orange County Relay for Life in Larry Ward Stadium at Bridge City High School. All of the goals for this year’s relay had already been exceeded before the first step was taken on the track.

In 2008, just before Hurricane Ike, the OC Relay almost doubled in size and money. Last year, right after the hurricane they were just hoping to make it through the event, but was blown away with its phenomenal success.

Participants swelled from 75 teams to 85 out distancing any other of the eight Relay for Life events under Jacki Burleson, community manager of income development for the American Cancer Society.

This year, their goals were just to maintain the increases of last year. They were hoping to maintain 85 teams and raise $160,000. Never did they imagine this year would bring 112 teams, 40 percent of which were first time teams. The day before the event, they had already banked over $171,000.

They did not know how many participants were currently on the field, but “1300 signed up online,” said this year’s chairman for the Relay for Life, Kerri Morrell.

Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the Orange County Tax office decided to participate for the first time this year. Other county departments joined in. The Island Warriors swelled to five teams with a total of 75 members. “We’ve risen over $19,000 said Janois Strause, one of the team captains. This was Strause’s first time to attend the event.

Vidor ISD had raised more than $23,000 before the relay started. The middle school and elementary schools had participated for over a decade, but the high school hadn’t participated in many years, according to Burleson. This year the high school had seven teams, making 12-13 teams total for the school district, said Burleson.

Pat Zatopek of Vidor Middle School participated even though she lost her 44-year-old daughter, Jodie Zatopek Kline, to colon cancer just two weeks before. Her daughter had volunteered as an advocate in Dallas for the Colon Cancer Alliance supporting Mary Crowley Cancer Research the last seven years of her life, as she battled her own war with the deadly disease. “She worked tirelessly,” said Zatopek. She continued with the Relay as a tribute to her daughter.

Zatopek’s companion, Debbie Munoz from Vidor High, said she was really enjoying the event in Bridge City. “I love it, they’re very hospitable.”

The Bobcat Lunch Bunch was “Cook’n for a Cure.” Just one of the teams from the Orangefield School District, the lunch ladies had raised $3,181 before the event and was selling cookies and other baked goods to sell that night.

Participants were treated to music, competitions, food and fun as they walked the track from dusk till dawn. Dance teams and cheerleaders entertained the crowd. Teams sold food, jewelry and trinkets, while offering face and hair painting among just a few of the opportunities to raise more money through the night. The football field was filled with line dancing – truly the biggest party in town.

As of presstime Tuesday night the Relay for Life has raised over $200,222 and still has money coming in.

The top team and top family team is Trace’s Trail Walkers raising over $12,000.
The top school team is Sim’s Sassy Sisters. Other prizes are yet to be determined.

About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.