MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA Ariz. -- Three station Marine teams donned their combat boots and running shoes and set up camp at Ray Smucker's Park to join the city of Yuma, the American Cancer Society, and hundreds of other participants in the fight against cancer during the fifth annual Relay for Life, April 20 and 21.
According to Connie Quinn, co-chairperson in charge of the event, the objective for the 17-hour event was to continuously walk around a one-and-a-half mile track, lined with luminary bags to honor those with cancer.
There were more than 45 teams participating and raising money for the campaign to fight cancer. The goal was to raise $30,000, the teams raised more than $54,000.
Quinn said the relay was also meant to bring the community together in a fight for a good cause.
"There's probably not a person in this community who has not been touched by cancer in some way, whether it was a family member, a friend or themselves who had cancer. So, what better way to bring the community together than a walk for a good cause," Quinn said.
According to Kris Ozuna, co-chairperson, the military is a big part of the Yuma community, and the support from the Marines was clearly felt and appreciated.
"Anything we needed, the Marines were willing to help get it done," Ozuna stated.
The Walk for Life was quite a complex event, Quinn said.
The event kicked-off around 6:30 p.m. with an opening ceremony, followed by a walk around the track by cancer survivors. Then it was the teams' turn.
During the event, a member of each team ran or walked around the track, one after the other, until the event ended at 10 the next morning.
Most of the teams took breaks throughout the night, but the Marine teams ran all night long.
"At four in the morning, when everyone else was walking or taking a break, the Marine teams were running. I think that says something special about what we're doing here," said Staff Sgt. David Collier, Personnel Support Detachment team organizer.
He said at first, the team just came out to support the community. But, as the evening went on, he and his teammates began to see they were really running for a higher cause.
"At first I came here to support the rest of the unit. Then I saw all these luminary bags in memory or honor of those with cancer, and I began to realize there was more to it," said Lance Cpl. Kirby Fong, PSD team member.
The goal for each team was to raise $100 per team member by selling luminary bags, raffle tickets, or other fundraisers.
The only Marine team to do that was Judy's Marine Marauders, a team made up of Marines from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. They raised just over $1,000.
"We initially started to do it because it was good for camaraderie and for a good cause," said Master Sgt. Nathan Portman, H&HS team organizer. "But, the more we got into it, we realized that cancer touches everyone in some way, and that helped our motivation."
Portman's team was running for Judy Minium, a civilian employee in the Public Affairs Office who is close with the Marines in the shop, and has cancer. Portman noted it was also good for the Corps.
"It doesn't hurt to tout the Marine Corps a bit," he stated.
According to Ozuna, the Marines put on quite a show.
"I just think the Marines running on the track as a team at first, and then running all night and showing their stamina kept things going. It really motivated a lot of people," he said.