Above are the Cancer Crushers from Isbell School.

Isbell Jr. Condor Cancer Crushers raise over $20,000 for Relay for Life

May 10, 2013
Santa Paula News

The Isbell Middle School Jr. Condor Cancer Crushers have raised somewhere over $20,000 for the American Cancer Society from the recent Santa Paula Relay for Life.

Team Captain, teacher Mark Robertson, noted they had been a team for nine years. “We have raised over $100,000 in that nine years,” he added. “We do a lot of fundraisers throughout the year. We work out at the Pumpkin Patch with the Rotary Club and they have been very generous in their support of us and our program over the years. We also do fundraisers like chocolate sales and the kids go out and try to raise some personal donations as well.” 

In addition the students all help out with a variety of jobs at the Relay itself. Robertson said they start off the year with over 100 kids and they usually have 70 to 80 who actually go to the Relay. How do they attract so many young people to the group? 

Robertson said the kids work really hard, but a big reason is the cause. “Every kid, every family, everyone has been affected by cancer,” he said. “So they can all relate to that to some extent.” 

He said it’s almost a year-round activity for himself and teacher Todd McWherter, the other main force behind the program. Robertson said he got involved because he enjoyed the community service and spending time with the kids and being a part of that community.

McWherter started the Cancer Crushers. The first year consisted of the ASB group. McWherter and Doug Johnston were the ASB advisors. Before that there was a staff team, started by Tom Mendoza.

Student Isaiah Ruiz joined Cancer Crushers for the first time this year. He got involved because his mother passed away last summer from cancer. He said he wanted to join last year, but he couldn’t because he was taking care of his mother.  He said taking part this year “made a difference.” 

Another student, Mireiloe Vargas, has participated in the Relay for three years. “I started because I had family members who were affected by cancer,” she said. “Helping raise money to find a cure was something that I wanted to do because I know how it affects other people.” 

Joseph Ramirez has been in Cancer Crushers for two years. He got involved because his uncle was diagnosed with brain cancer. “I felt maybe if I joined Cancer Crushers it would probably help find a cure,” he said. His uncle passed away.

McWherter said he’s surprised at how much money they’ve raised. “The first year there were about 20 to 25 kids and our goal was to raise $5,000 and we did,” he said. “The last four or five years we’ve made over $20,000 a year, with our highest year being just about $25,000.” Because they get a fresh group of kids every year he said they’re pretty excited to do it, “and that’s what makes it hard to stop.”

Gwen Harrod, co-chair of this year’s Santa Paula Relay, said she is grateful for the Junior Condor Cancer Crushers: “They bring so much to Santa Paula’s Relay for Life.” Even with all they do, “What I love most, however, is their spirit,” Harrod added. “All day and through the night, you can find Jr. Condor Cancer Crushers making their way around the track. They jog during the day, and walk wrapped in their favorite blankets at night. They represent the next generation of Relayers. The Santa Paula Relay For Life would not be the same without the Junior Condor Cancer Crushers.”

In 2010 Becci Orlando wrote Oprah Winfrey about the Cancer Crushers, when Winfrey was looking for local heroes, urging her to come to Santa Paula. But so far there has been no response to her letter. 

Her husband Bob Orlando said, “As of this year, I project the JCCC raised over $165,000 for our Relay since their involvement eight years ago. I believe this amount is more than the combined contribution from commercial and business sponsors to our Relay during this same period.”

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