By California City Correctional Facility staff
On Oct. 22, the first Relay for Life walk was held at California City Correctional Facility (CAC), uniting staff and offenders with a common goal — raising money to fight cancer.
Coach Thandi Smith and Community Resource Manager Rebecca Dennis began organizing the event in May.
More than 300 inmates and 50 staff took part in the walk. There were 35 inmate teams, with the top fundraising team bringing in $1,438 from family, friends and inmate trust account withdrawals. The second-place team raised $1,160, which also included artwork sales.
All teams had a team captain and up to nine participants. Team members had to raise a minimum of $5 each to walk in the event. There were 311 inmate participants and 50 staff participants.
There were five staff teams. The top team, Educators against Cancer, raised $1,195. The second-place team raised $1,110.
The institution’s goal was to raise $5,000, which they blew away with $18,450.50. According to the American Cancer Society, the event was the top fundraising walk held at a prison.
Fundraising activities included:
- Inmate food sale
- Online donations
- Trust withdrawal forms
- Donated artwork for the Ridgecrest Relay 4 Life walk
American Cancer Society representatives attended the event and donated bottled water and granola bars for all participants. They provided cancer literature for inmates and staff.
In honor of loved ones, inmates and staff decorated luminary bags and placed them around the track.
Music was provided throughout the event by multiple prison bands and graduates from the inmate activity group, Give a Beat, an Arts in Corrections program. Outside volunteers from Give a Beat also attended.
The event kicked off with an inmate singing the National Anthem. Coach Smith thanked all the staff and inmate teams for coming together for a cause.
The Relay for Life event was requested by inmates from the Yoga class who lost one of their classmates to cancer. They dedicated the walk to his memory.
The program included three inmate speakers. Inmate Lavender spoke on the importance of taking care of yourself and thanked staff and inmates for coming together for one cause. Inmate Solis spoke on losing his mother to cancer in 2017 when he was in the reception center. Inmate Barkley spoke on family members that lost lives and for those that survived.
American Cancer Society representatives Jamie Brickey Powell and Donna Hermann spoke of the importance of these events and participated in the walk with the inmates.
All inmates and staff walked the first lap together in honor of all survivors. Following that lap, team members took turns walking or running until the conclusion of the event at 12:45 p.m.
Awards were presented to the top staff and inmate teams by Coach Smith, Chief Deputy Warden Hedrick and American Cancer Society representatives.
Following the awards, CRM Dennis address the participants and congratulated them on a job well done. She told them that they set the bar pretty high this year, and that next year will only be better.
Read other ways CDCR is community involved.