Photo Information

Master Sgt. Phil Hartzell, 452nd Civil Engineering Squadron, gives his daughter a shoulder ride during one of his laps around the track during the Moreno Valley Relay for Life May 15-16. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jennifer McDow)

Photo by Jennifer McDow

March Team completes 24-hour Relay for Life

28 May 2010 | Megan Just

March Air Reserve Base personnel made a difference in the fight against cancer over the weekend at the 11th Annual Moreno Valley Relay for Life. The community event had 43 teams, 362 participants and raised more than $15,000 for cancer research.

Jennifer McDow, a 452nd Air Mobility Wing personnel security specialist, was the team captain of "Team Char." Twelve civilians and reservists from March joined the team, which was named for McDow's grandmother, Charlene VanWechel, who lost her battle with lymphoma seven years ago.

"I can still recall the day my mother told me my grandmother had cancer. For ten years, my grandmother struggled to overcome the disease that finally took her life. That was the driving force behind my decision to put a team together to honor and celebrate those who have cancer or have lost their lives to cancer," said McDow.

The team camped out overnight and took turns walking around the Valley View High School track in Moreno Valley for 24-hours straight to raise money and awareness for the American Cancer Society. Relay for Life events are held yearly across the country and McDow said signing up to participate or volunteer is as simple as logging into the Relay for Life website and picking an event in your area.

McDow said the March Air Reserve Base "Team Char" members have been affected by cancer through friends or family members--and in some cases, by having cancer themselves--so joining the team was an easy decision.

The 2010 Moreno Valley Relay for Life began with a lap led by cancer survivors and each subsequent lap had a different theme. This year's lap themes included the chicken dance, conga line, and a bubble lap. For McDow, the lap with the greatest impact was the luminary lap, held just after sunset. During this lap, a bag-piper leads a procession of volunteers, friends and family members around the track, lighting luminary bags along the way.

"On the day of the relay, as our team took turns walking around the track, I realized the hardest part of the relay is not walking for 24 hours as much as it is dealing with emotions. You see the pictures of people who have passed away on the luminary bags placed around the track and you hear the stories about those who are still battling cancer," McDow said.

Each team at the event set up an informational booth to share educational materiel about a form of cancer. Additionally, event organizers spaced signs with cancer statistics and prevention tips every 10 feet around the track.

The "Team Char" members included: Marvin Tucker, Bob Kaschak, Master Sgt. Michael Lazare, Master Sgt. Daniel McDow, Master Sgt. Phil Hartzell, Tech. Sgt. William Pullion, Tech. Sgt. Oscar Munoz, Tech. Sgt. Gregory Myers, Staff Sgt. Thomas Capps, Staff Sgt. Christopher Jackson and Staff Sgt. Aja Smith.

"The Relay for Life is more than an opportunity to support your community; it's about cancer awareness," McDow said. "It is an emotionally draining day, but it is a wonderful growing experience."