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Families find strength at annual cancer walk

Posted on January 11, 2017 by Sonoma Valley Sun

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Sonoma Raceway’s John’s March Against Stomach Cancer was originally conceived to support one man’s battle against a deadly disease, but over the past five years, the event has grown to provide support and solace for a number of Bay Area families affected by gastric cancer.

The 6th annual John’s March Against Stomach Cancer on Saturday, Jan. 21, is expected to attract hundreds of participants who will enjoy a symbolic “march” around the raceway’s 2.52-mile road course to raise funds for No Stomach For Cancer, a global advocate for stomach cancer awareness, early detection, treatment and prevention  John’s March has raised more than $67,000 over the past five years.

The event is named in honor of the raceway’s longtime spokesman John Cardinale, who passed away in 2013 after a two-year battle with the disease, becoming one of nearly 723,000 people who will die from stomach cancer in the world each year.

Novato’s Judy Riccio has attended all five John’s March events in honor of her late husband, John Riccio, who passed away at age 50 in 2008. Riccio joins each year with a large group of friends and family, including children Joseph and Bella, as well as some of the doctors who treated her husband.

“I wanted to be a proponent for this type of cancer since it’s so underfunded. I looked for a walk or something local to support and finally found this event; I’ve rallied many friends and family to join me since the first year,” said Riccio. “You just have to channel your grief and loss, and put energy into finding a cure and raising awareness.”

Healdsburg’s Vern Losh first attended the event in honor of his son, Allen, in 2014. The Losh family was supported by a large group of firefighters, friends and family, and wore shirts with a rock climbing graphic in honor of Allen. Sadly, Allen passed away shortly after the 2014 event at the age of 30. Vern, a retired fire chief from Sonoma County, was diagnosed with the disease soon thereafter. Stomach removal surgery has led him into remission and he will attend this year’s March.

The Saenz family of Napa (pictured) first attended John’s March in 2014 to support their father and husband, James. James passed away in 2015 at the age of 40, but his wife, Caroline, has continued the family’s fight against gastric cancer, becoming a board member of No Stomach for Cancer last year.

“What John’s March means to us is bonding with a community, being able to talk, walk and share with people who are and have been on similar journeys in raising awareness for stomach cancer, and remembering our lost loved ones, which gives us a sense of hope,” said Saenz, who will walk in honor of her husband James again this year.

Participants and donors are encouraged to raise awareness and increase their impact by creating a John’s March team page at www.crowdrise.com/JohnsMarch2017.  Registration for the event is $40 per person, which includes the walk/run, a T-shirt and light refreshments following the March. This is an all-inclusive event – children, pets, everyone is welcome. The raceway’s Sunoco Victory Lane will also be available for pictures before and after the march. No scooters or skateboards are allowed on track.

Day-of registration begins at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21, and the March begins at 9 a.m. rain or shine. Advance registration is not required; walk-ups are welcome and encouraged. Please note: only cash and checks will be accepted at the event, but credit cards are accepted in advance through the website.  Checks should be made payable to No Stomach For Cancer, Inc.



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