The American Cancer society had tried unsuccessfully for three years to bring its Relay for Life to Cupertino, California, but it wasn’t until Carol Reppucci took on the relay as her project in Landmark Education’s Self-Expression and Leadership Program that the event actually happened, succeeding beyond anyone’s expectations. Inspired by a family member who had survived cancer the year before, Carol organized, coordinated and orchestrated the event and was fundamental in putting together the teams that took part. She also got the support of her company, Lockheed Martin, which both contributed to the event and publicly acknowledged her.
More than 350 people walked in the relay, which took place at the De Anza College in Cupertino over July 28th-29th of last year. Many local politicians walked in and spoke at the event, including Mayor Kris Wang, city manager David Knapp and councilmember Orrin Mahoney. Reppucci shattered and her team shattered every goal set by the American Cancer Society, which said she should aim for 10 walking teams and $25,000 in fundraising. Reppucci generated 28 walking teams, and over $73,000 was raised.
“It’s good to see city officials take an active part in Cupertino’s landmark events,” noted Rappucci, who was also the event chair, “especially the relay, since every family has been impacted by cancer.”
In addition to the relay, the event featured activity booths, games, and music. The relay itself started with cancer survivors wearing purple T-shirts walking the first lap. Then one by one, each of the team was called to the track. A wide variety of people participated–People of different ages, professions, and ethnic groups all walked or ran as over the next 24 hours, at least one person from every team walked or ran on the track.
Many people had deeply personal reasons for taking part in the event. Kristi Vo and her cousin Helen Uong headed the food committee that provided meals, snacks and beverages for the participants. Their team, called Special Missions Unit, walked and ran in memory of Kristi’s fiance, who died of cancer at the age of 34.
Flamingos Fighting for a Cure, founded by Debi Chessen, walked for her husband Stuart Chessen, who won his battle against cancer.
As people continued to run and walk through the night, tents from each team were put up around the track. That evening there was a luminary ceremony honoring both cancer survivors and cancer victims. Lighted bags with messages from loved ones were placed around the track and up and down the bleachers. A slide show of candid shots from the day’s event were played on a large screen, followed by a video of the event, and an inspiring video of a woman who survived cancer that she was diagnosed with while pregnant.
To see press coverage of the event, go here.