Hundreds of participants and supporters helped to make the Sixth Annual Hesperia Relay for Life the best yet, according to event organizers.


"We already hit our goal and then some," said event chairwoman Tracy Moyer. "You guys have been so hard at work. This is an amazing gathering. All of us are here for the same reason to put an end to cancer."


"This year's rally is the largest one yet," said park board president Rebekah Swanson.


According to Swanson, who shared her father's victory over cancer, there were more than 200 participants and 25 teams. This year, local participants have raised more than $32,000 toward cancer research.


Colleen Taylor, who was first diagnosed with cancer at the age of 19 when she was pregnant, shared the emotional story of being told by doctors that she must terminate the pregnancy.


"I refused to do it," she said.


Taylor gave birth to a son, who is now 25, and later had two other children including a daughter now 14 who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 5.


"Early detection is the best thing," Taylor said.


Singer Karen Ethridge entertained prior to the opening ceremony. Mercedes Williams sang the National Anthem, and Christ In Action performed mime. Rev. Bob Wicherts of Hesperia United Methodist Church led attendees in prayer, and Mayor Thurston "Smitty" Smith greeted the crowd. Moyer presented an award to the Hesperia Star, which was accepted by editor Peter Day. Danielle Chrisinger of the American Cancer Society encouraged attendees to sign a petition to raise the tobacco tax by $1.


Following the opening ceremony, survivors with 11-year-old cancer survivor Maddy Marzano helping to lead the way walked a surprisingly brisk Lap of Hope.


The Relay was part of the park district's "Cars, Cures & 'Cue" weekend event.