Hundreds of volunteers took to the streets Wednesday for the fifth annual Day of Hope, a communitywide event that raises money to benefit the Mission Hope Cancer Center.
Organized by Marian Regional Medical Center in partnership with the Santa Maria Times, Day of Hope raises money to help local cancer patients. At more than 50 locations in Santa Maria, Orcutt, Nipomo, Lompoc and Solvang, around 650 volunteers stood at street corners from 7 to 11 a.m. selling special editions of the Santa Maria Times, Lompoc Record and Santa Ynez Valley News. There were around 26,000 copies of the three newspapers printed.
Volunteers donned bright orange vests, running out to car windows as motorists stopped to buy newspapers — with many motorists donating more than the $1 requested.
As of Wednesday, the event raised more than $195,000, breaking last year's record of $170,648. The total raised will continue to be updated over several days, said Jessa Brooks, vice president of philanthropy for Marian Regional Medical Center.
Mission Hope uses the money raised to help cancer patients in need, assisting them with transportation, household bills, child care costs and other expenses they may have.
Since its inception, Day of Hope has raised more than $550,000 for Mission Hope.
During Day of Hope, more than 60 volunteer teams cheered, waved signs and dressed up to get the attention of motorists. The Teal Journey Ovarian Cancer Foundation President Cristina Martins Sinco — stationed at Miller and Cook streets — dressed in an orange vest, teal scarf, tutu and tiara. At College and Main streets, the Dignity Health team put up balloons, while volunteers wore angel costumes, complete wings and halos.
“We try to attract the cars and have a good time,” said Dignity Health nurse Trina Tuzzio, who was volunteering at her third Day of Hope. Tuzzio said her father died from cancer, which inspired her to become a nurse.
“I try to do all I can do to help with Day of Hope — it’s very rewarding,” Tuzzio said.
Sarah Schramm, who was stationed at Skyway and Airpark drives with the United Cerebral Palsy team, said Day of Hope has a special significance for her. A former Mission Hope Cancer Center patient, Schramm beamed with gratitude as she recalled how Mission Hope staff members comforted her as she received treatment for her breast cancer three years ago.
“I was scared, you know. I thought, ‘Oh my God, radiation,” Schramm said. “[My treatment coordinator] told me, ‘Sarah, it’s OK — just lay down, relax, just pretend you’re out at the beach.’ After that, I wasn’t as scared.”
Schramm went to Mission Hope Cancer Center for 17 weeks for her treatment, which included radiation and surgery. She said she’s grateful to be in a position to now give back.
“It’s nice to care about others,” Schramm said. “What’s really sad is when people suffer from cancer and don’t get treatment — that’s the scariest part. I got treatment for it, so I was very lucky.”
Dr. Monica Rocco, who directs the breast cancer care program at Mission Hope, said she sees firsthand how Day of Hope funds help the community when she tells patients they can receive financial support.
“Cancer is a hard diagnosis to go through physically, emotionally, socially and financially,” Rocco said. “Sometimes when people have a lot of medical bills — we can’t pay for medical bills — but we can pay for things like utilities, rent, child care expenses. And that helps a lot.”
Many motorists purchased multiple newspapers. Blanca Valdez stopped by College Drive and Main Street to buy two newspapers, which she placed on her passenger seat next to three other newspapers she bought earlier in the day.
Near City Hall — at Broadway and Cook Street — Mayor Alice Patino, City Manager Jason Stilwell, City Councilwoman Etta Waterfield and others waved down cars. Waterfield, who estimated they sold around 100 newspapers by 8:30 a.m., said she was impressed with the generosity of the community.
“People have been giving us $20s and $5s, $10s,” Waterfield said. “It’s been excellent.”
Javier Valencia, a groundskeeper with the city of Santa Maria, stopped Wednesday morning to purchase a newspaper from Santa Maria Fire Chief Leonard Champion. Valencia said a co-worker of his died from cancer and he wanted to do what he could to support cancer patients in the area.
Leonard said the Fire Department looks forward to Day of Hope each year.
“It’s a great event,” he said. “You drive around town and it seems like every corner there are people waving newspapers, trying to get money to support cancer patients. It’s really amazing to see our community coming together for a great cause.”