Months of exhausting effort and volunteer hours paid off early Saturday morning with the 2012 Marianas March Against Cancer yielding a total of $111,468.60 in monetary and in-kind contributions-surpassing the target for the event's 10th anniversary-and the amount is expected to increase in the coming days.
The annual fundraising event, lasting from 6pm Friday to 6am the following day at the Hopwood Jr. High School field, drew thousands of spectators who came together for the fight against cancer in the CNMI.
Of the amount raised, $41,993.79 came from the 16 participating teams that held various fundraising activities before and during the event and were presented with certificates of recognition and awards under different categories.
The teams that raised the most money were Team Knights of Mount Carmel School for the “Napu” or school category; Team Bodig for the “Pulan” or family category with about $15,000; Team NMPASI Posse for the non-profit/government category; and Team PIC for the corporate category.
The team with the most luminaries sold was Team Bodig.
Team #Free Dave, another team that debuted in this year's fundraiser, bagged the Most Laps for having run or walked the field track the most that night, and the Best Tent award for their red-colored tent dedicated to the group's family member and friend, Dave Ayuyu, who was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer.
The Best Baton award went to Team Bodig, which has been taking part in the MMAC event for a decade now and had the “Kung Fu” theme for this year. Their baton had three components: the bamboo, which represents longevity, strength, and flexibility just like what cancer patients demonstrate; the world, indicating the community being there for one another; and the Kung Fu fighters, which characterize a cancer patient who does not give up amid adversities in life.
Team Aschoscho, meanwhile, won the Most Spirit award in recognition of the team's enduring dynamism and energy throughout the 12-hour event.
Other participating teams were Teams Ahu, 302nd FRG, IT&E/Saipan Southern High School, Marriage Encounter, Saipan Health Clinic/St. Jude Renal Care Facility, Tan Holdings/Kagman High School, Ponape, and Take Care/Grace Christian Academy.
Opening ceremony, program
Friday's opening ceremony kicked off with the invocation from Fr. Ryan P. Jimenez, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Chalan Kanoa, followed by the recognition of cancer survivors dressed in violet MMAC shirts and collectively called “Team Courage.”
Members of Team Courage were greeted with applause as they did the survivors' lap, which signaled the beginning of the relay. Some 60 survivors received medallions in recognition of their courage and strength.
Faga Warren, who recently had radiation treatment in the Philippines, recounted that she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in August 2011. Warren, 39, emphasized the importance of family and other support groups as cancer patients go through their ordeal.
“We have to love the patient, love whoever has cancer. We need support, we need the love. It was encouraging for me, having my friends, my family, and my church. They're really supporting me and they've given me strength,” said Warren, who attended the event with her daughter and husband.
Juan Vicente Ehsa Blanco, who was diagnosed with leukemia in May 2007, said that he is “a living testament to the fact that cancer does not discriminate.”
Blanco, the 8-year-old cancer survivor who got his wish to meet President Barack Obama in October 2010 through Make-A-Wish Foundation, narrated his story since that fateful day during his spiel on stage and said that he is taking his recovery “one step at a time” with the help of his family, friends, and doctors.
“It's been tough but I know I must get through this,” he said. “Lord knows there is no sense in giving up now.”
Blanco acknowledged everyone who helped MMAC, saying their support is “one step closer to defeating this dreaded disease.”
Sen. Luis Crisostomo, who was diagnosed and treated for cancer on his palate, noted the importance of prevention and said that healthy living is one way to do it by having proper diet and exercise.
Community members were treated to fun activities and great food at the tents set up by participating teams, as well as live entertainment and exciting prizes that were raffled off, aired live at KKMP 1440 92-1.
The event was also highlighted by a luminary ceremony, wherein luminaries were lit in honor of those who have battled cancer, those who are still undergoing treatment, and those who have passed on due to cancer.
Overall MMAC committee chair Catherine Attao-Toves said the funds raised will help non-profit group Commonwealth Cancer Association in its programs that assist cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers, as well as its efforts to raise cancer education, awareness, and prevention within the CNMI.
She said they will bring together in a reception in May the people who have supported MMAC in the 10 years it has been in existence.
Attao-Toves said they look forward to seeing their supporters again in 2013 as they hold the 11th year of MMAC and urged the community to watch their diet and take care of one another.
“Take care of yourself so we can take care of the people that we need to. As one community, we need to come together and help each other out,” she added.