ANTIOCH -- It will be a bittersweet Relay For Life event this weekend for organizers and volunteers, as the Antioch group mourns the passing of their founder but anticipates raising $85,000 for cancer research.
In May, the founder of the first American Cancer Society Relay For Life team in Antioch, Judith Young Trapanese, lost her battle with breast cancer. In remembrance of her dedication to their cause, the Antioch organizers are holding this year's event in her honor. The relay will take place from 10 a.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday at Deer Valley High School.
"No one was a stranger to Judy," said Antioch Relay For Life Chairwoman Michele Littlefield. "Her team 'Smiling for a Cure' was original to the Antioch Relay, and Judy was the original founder."
Over the years, Trapanese lent her support and advice to many of the area's Relay For Life groups, helping with setup and attending as many as she could.
"If Judy found out someone had cancer, she would be at their side in an instant. She would call to check on people often and helped nurse many until the end," Littlefield said.
In 1990, Trapanese was diagnosed with breast cancer and survived three additional occurrences. She was still actively involved in the Relay For Life efforts when she died May 14, just seven days shy of her 66th birthday.
"Every year we never knew what to expect her to be costumed in for Relay day," Littlefield said. "Often, her creations were a combination of items grateful people had given her to celebrate her team's logo of a smiley face."
The Antioch Relay For Life organization is one of the largest in the area, with 67 registered teams and over 500 volunteers.
Over the past several months, teams throughout Antioch have been collecting funds, hosting events and getting the word out about the cause. During this weekend's event, the teams will sell various handcrafted items from quilts to jewelry to jams. There will be food booths and many fun activities to keep everyone entertained and busy for the 24-hour event.
Littlefield encourages everyone to come out and see what happens at a Relay event.
"Though it sounds cliché, the day really is magic," she said. "Having cancer, caring for someone with cancer, losing someone to cancer. All of it can be hard on a person mentally, spiritually, physically, but a Relay For Life event is like 24 hours of fuel to fill up someone with whatever they need to keep going. All of it done by local residents who volunteer their time and talents because they truly want to help."
Those who wish to make a donation in Judy Young Trapanese's memory can go to www.relayforlife.org/antiochca, where they will find a place to make a special tribute donation.