Kristin Lima knows more about cancer than she ever thought she would want to know. Two years ago, she and husband Gil Lima discovered their young son had a tumor on his back.

"Mother's Day weekend 2002 will be forever etched in my mind," Lima said. She and her then two-year-old son Grant were playing at Waller Park. "As I watched the excruciating pain on my child's face as he climbed the stairs for the slide and his amazing determination to succeed, I knew enough was enough. We had to find out what was wrong with our child."

They had taken him to the doctor for the pain before, but it was getting worse. Six weeks of examinations and tests finally discovered the tumor and it had to be removed immediately or Grant could be paralyzed.

Shortly after the surgery, Lima's friend, who worked at Lompoc High School, told her their school team was dedicating their participation in Relay for Life to Grant. "My only response was a burst of more tears," Lima said.

This year, the Lima family will be walking in the July relay again. Four surgeries and several chemotherapies later, Grant is still not out of the woods. But they haven't given up hope. Lima asked for help from volunteers who recently gathered for a Relay for Life kick off and organizing event.

"As you begin this journey of raising funds for the American Cancer Society, remember the face of the child you are helping," Lima said. "ACS had provided our family emotional support, educational materials and Grant's favorite part - camps with other families facing the ordeal of childhood cancer."

KCOY Anchorwoman Nerissa Sugars emceed the event. Hannah Jones, 7, read a modified version of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." Cancer survivor Eric Torres asked other youth to get involved. "My goal is to have 25 youth-only teams bring in $25,000," Torres said. Cory Wertman sang "Where You Are."

Janet Davila is the chairwoman of the 2004 Relay for Life at St. Joseph High School in Orcutt. She coordinates the activities of the teams which collect contributions prior to the event. The relay begins at 10 a.m. on July 24 with an Opening Ceremony and Cancer "Survivors' Opening Lap. Team members take turns walking around the football track. Activities for children such as bounce houses, clowns, face painting, storytelling and games will be provided until 6 p.m. Teams bring tents and lawn chairs for a "community camp-out." At night, "Luminarias," bags with sand and a candle, are lighted. These are purchased in advance for $10 and dedicated in honor of a cancer survivor or in memory of a loved one lost to cancer. It ends with a closing ceremony at 10 a.m. on July 25.

Tricia McCall has been involved with ACS fund-raising for 15 years. She served as the Relay for Life chairwoman the past two years. "My grandfather died of cancer a while back," McCall said. "I started losing my friends … people around my age, and kids, that's not supposed to happen."

Last year, 35 teams raised more than $155,000. The goal this year is to have 50 teams raise $200,000. Groups throughout the nation will walk in their own relays, an effort that has contributed to the $2.5 billion in cancer research since 1946. ACS also provides education, advocacy and services for cancer patients and their families.

Hector Paz heads a team from Lockheed Martin in memory of his late wife Penny Paz. The team, called "Penny for Your Thoughts," conducts several fund-raisers in addition to the Relay for Life. They do Taco Days, tamale sales, tri-tip barbecues and bake sales. They use the company web site to publicize their fund-raisers.

"From a personal standpoint," Paz said, "it just gives me a great peace of mind that I can do something for others, because I went through all that anguish and loss of Penny. This is the least I can do in her memory."

To get involved with a team, to buy luminaries, or to help with the children's activities, contact ACS Santa Maria Valley Unit, 426 E. Barcellus Suite 305, Santa Maria, Calif. 93454, 805-922-2354 ext. 3 (phone); 805-928-6054 (fax); www.SantaMariaRelayForLife.com; laurie.carter@cancer.org.

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