Images of cancer victims who have passed on flashed across the screen on the darkened infield of Paloma Valley High School Saturday night. Moments later came images of cancer survivors -- both those now healthy and those still fighting the disease.
In between, hundreds of people slowly walked a lap around the track, led by a man playing "Amazing Grace" on bagpipes. With the stadium lights turned off and a full moon in the distance, those determined to help the world beat cancer stopped occasionally to read messages written on illuminated bags lining the track.
Saturday's opening ceremony, with Mayor Scott Mann in attendance, included a lap walked by cancer survivors, each wearing a bright purple T-shirt. As the day progressed, volunteers took turns walking laps, some carrying brightly decorated "spirit sticks" like batons. Each of the 23 teams formed to raise donations and promote unity were required to have at least one walker on the track at all times.
Booths were set up in the infield, displaying photos and information about various forms of cancer. A band played on stage during the day. Tents were set up for those who stayed the night as the relay continued for 24 hours.
"The goal for this event is to raise $62,000, and we came in with $58,000, so we'll far exceed our goal this year," said Cathi Hill, senior manager of five local Relay for Life events and a cancer survivor.
"I'm very excited to be here," said Regina Keller, chair of the Relay for Life Menifee comittee. "This is a great organization that touches many lives. I love seeing all the purple shirts out here and knowing we are truly making a difference."
Madison Keith, an 11-year-old Canyon Lake resident, was diagnosed with cancer in January. She is receiving treatments at Kaiser Hospital in Fontana. Along with her father Kevin, mother Rebecca and sister Caitlin, Madison attended Saturday's event.
"She's had four rounds of chemo and has three more to go," her mother said. "She's handling it well. She can't go to school because she can't be exposed to other kids, but her teacher comes to the house. She has a strong faith."