Relay team connects with young survivor

The team is shown at Best of Times.

While Hollister’s Relay For Life is over, one little girl who helped start out the cancer survivor’s lap on Aug. 3 has one more celebration coming her way.
Alexa Gabriella Mendoza will be treated to a day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, including a behind-the-scenes tour for her entire family thanks in part to one of the Relay For Life teams that participated in the 24-hour fundraiser Aug. 3-4.
Susie Torres, who works at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital, said the group got the suggestion to honor a special child this year from the owner of Best of Times Café. Terry Woodward has long been a sponsor of the Hazel Hawkins Relay team and this year he said he wanted to do something for a child.
Torres said she and another team captain immediately thought of 4-year-old Mendoza.
The young girl was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer around June of 2012. She has undergone chemotherapy and although the treatment has been successful, she is still taking medication.
“Terry from Best of Times has been helping out for years, with giving donations,” Torres said, adding that he helped with the luminarias. “He said he wanted to do something different – he wanted to sponsor a child to send them to camp.”
Torres said with it being late in the summer, they decided to arrange the trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for Mendoza instead of a week at camp. She worked with Jessica Chapman with Make a Wish Foundation at the aquarium. Mendoza will have a behind-the-scenes tour, which allows her a chance to touch and feed some of the animals.
On the Thursday before the Relay event, Mendoza stopped at the restaurant with her family to learn about her special trip. In preparing for the special announcement, Torres said she stopped by Novias La Princesia to pick out a fancy purple dress for the little girl to wear as she is a “girly-girl.” The owner of the shop offered up a purple dress for free.
“She loves dresses,” Torres said. “She wanted to put it on right away.”
Mendoza’s mother said the little girl liked the dress so much, she wanted to sleep in it.
Westlake Florist also donated a bouquet of flowers that Woodward handed to Mendoza as the announcement about the trip to the aquarium was made.
During the Relay event, Mendoza and a little boy were the first to complete the survivor’s lap, the moment in the annual event when those who have overcome cancer take the first lap around the track. The annual event raised money for the American Cancer Society.
This year in Hollister, 41 teams registered to participate in the Relay For Life with more than $98,000 collected online. Many of the teams continued collecting during the event at Andy Hardin Stadium at San Benito High School.
Torres said 16 employees from Hazel Hawkins participated this year, including one doctor and two directors. They also had some family and friends involved, bringing their participant roster to 30 people. Her team continued to raise money at the event by raffling off a basket of Pampered Chef products and a quilt.
They also went along with the Life As a Highway theme by putting together a remote control race track with which children could race.
“Everything we collected went to Relay For Life,” she said.
The team captains will turn in any last-minute donations at a wrap up celebration on Aug. 20, at the Hollister Methodist Church. Participants who want to attend are asked to RSVP for the wrap up celebration by Aug. 19 to [email protected]

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