Hosted this year by the Believing For A Cure team, the first — of what will likely become an annual event — Bark For Life in Oakdale has been declared a huge success.
There were an estimated 250 people in attendance at the Saturday morning event staged at Shire Park, designed for people and their dogs to come together as a way to raise funds for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life event in a pet-friendly environment.
Dogs are not allowed at the Oakdale Relay, but the Bark For Life was definitely a dog’s day celebration.
“I thought it was a huge success,” said Pam Benziger, Senior Manager, Relay For Life. “We had great feedback from everyone, both attendees and vendor/supporters.”
Benziger’s husband Kevin coordinated the event but was called out of town on business unexpectedly and wasn’t able to attend on Saturday. Pam Benziger, however, said it was exciting and rewarding hearing participants speak of next year’s event and the size they envision the Bark becoming.
“We definitely want to continue this event,” she said. “The event itself pretty much went off without a hitch.”
Opening ceremonies, before the more than 75 dogs in attendance walked with their owners in laps around the park, included brief remarks from Mayor Farrell Jackson and survivor speaker Betsy Stowe.
“I love that the American Cancer Society is all about celebrating more birthdays,” said Stowe. “I am 15 birthdays past a cancer diagnosis and another two birthdays past another kind of cancer.”
The two-time cancer survivor drew applause as she pumped up the crowd with her story of perseverance and survival and credited her dog, Chester, with being there for her every step of the way.
“I am so thankful for every opportunity to do life again,” Stowe said, thanking those that turned out with their dogs to help raise money to continue the fight against cancer.
Some of those attending with their dogs also take part in the traditional Relay For Life, while others came just to support the cause.
Ken Robertson, a prostate cancer survivor who attends Relay, credited his dog Keno with sniffing out his cancer and saving his life.
“She pretty much knew,” he said, noting that the dog gave off some warning signals to alert him to the problem.
Others, like Lisa Custer and her son Casey, brought their dogs to walk in honor of Casey’s grandfather and Lisa’s father-in-law, who passed away after a battle with cancer.
“It’s a way for us to start contributing to Relay For Life,” she said.
Brenda Tobey of Vacaville said she was contacted by a friend here in Oakdale who had a littermate to her dog, so she came to take part as well, and the event raised close to $4000 for the Believing For A Cure team. Tobey and Oakdale friends Della and Greg Nielsen had three dogs in the event and, between the three, brought in about $500 in pledges.
The ninth annual Relay For Life is this weekend, beginning with Opening Ceremonies at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Oakdale High School and the Survivor Lap at 9 a.m.
Oakdale resident Gloria New, who brought her dog Sabo to the event and entered her in the ‘cutest dog’ contest, said it was a great way to support an important cause.
“After all the years of supporting all my friends and their kids who do Relay, it was Sabo’s turn,” New said. “She raised $140.”
Leader Reporter Teresa Hammond contributed to this article.