Elgort breaks personal record at Relay For Life

Mesquite resident Gary Elgort, an 18-year cancer survivor, proudly displays his bead count as the sun was rising on the morning of April 16, 12 hours after he had begun walking for the 2016 Mesquite Relay For Life. Photo by Stephanie Frehner.

Mesquite resident Gary Elgort, an 18-year cancer survivor, proudly displays his bead count as the sun was rising on the morning of April 16, 12 hours after he had begun walking for the 2016 Mesquite Relay For Life. Photo by Stephanie Frehner.

April 15 marked many milestones for participants of the 2016 Mesquite Relay For Life at the Virgin Valley High School Track. For Mesquite resident and prostate cancer survivor Gary Elgort, it was personal. An 18-year survivor, Elgort set out to break his record from the 2015 event, especially since he miscalculated and came up short of a marathon at just 25.25 miles. “My brain was a little fried for some reason,” Elgort said jokingly. “I wanted to definitely make the marathon and pass it.” For 2016, his initial goal was 28 miles.

By 5:30 a.m. Elgort was experiencing the common consequences of walking for nearly 12 hours, the normal hip and joint pain, but he persisted through it and came out with 31 miles by the end of the event. After 14 hours and 124 laps, Elgort recorded 31 miles for the 2016 event, a new record for him. “I didn’t do it alone,” he said, “I had a lot of company. Friends from Sun City came out to cheer me on and keep me company at all hours, bringing coffee and snacks. It’s been an amazing experience.”

Elgort also did his part in fundraising this year, being his own team, Desert Fossil Walking, and seeking donations. “When I came here tonight, I was at $1,700. At least two people who came to walk with me said that they had not yet donated, so I should be around $1,800.” At last count, Elgort was correct, raising $1,880 for the event so far.

When asked what he would like to see improved in future Mesquite Relay For Life events, Elgort said that “I’d like to see more people out here during the odd hours,” he said. “Some of the teams came up short on people, but it was still good to see everyone out here. I think the weather kept a lot of people away,” said Elgort of the windy conditions at the beginning of the Relay. Thankfully, those winds died down around 9 p.m. as the Luminaria lap was beginning.

“It’s great to raise the money, but a big part of it was that you come out and walk the laps. All of those people put money on the table for us to do this, we need to do this, no matter what the weather.” Elgort came prepared with rain gear and blankets. “I came prepared tonight to walk regardless,” he said. “I have worked for a company that had to be on all the time, you learn to be prepared and ready.”

In total, there were 16 teams and 109 participants raising money for the cause, even though only a few dozen showed up to walk throughout the event.

The Survivor’s Lap, which began at 6 p.m. on April 15 at the 2016 Mesquite Relay For Life, was led by local businessman and Citizen of the Year Dennis Hangey, as he played his bagpipes. Photo courtesy of Jesselyn Bickley..

The Survivor’s Lap, which began at 6 p.m. on April 15 at the 2016 Mesquite Relay For Life, was led by local businessman and Citizen of the Year Dennis Hangey, as he played his bagpipes. Photo courtesy of Jesselyn Bickley..

The Mesquite Relay For Life goal was set at $10,000 and they exceeded that goal by raising $12,245.80 by the end of the event. The top fundraiser was Co-Chairman Jeff Powell who raised just over $2,300 for the event. The top fundraising team was The Wolf Gang, consisting of Jeff Powell, Christine Davis, Daryl Graham, Susan Mongalier, Barbara Powell and Kristina Whaley, with $4,690. Next in line was the Sun City Cancer Support Group with $1,920 and Desert Fossil Walking with $1,880.

Eureka team member Carlos Campos gave Elgort a run for his money, matching his 31 miles, even though he had fallen behind a couple of times through the night.

“We’re really proud of this event,” said Relay For Life Community Manager David Moore. “It’s so great to see communities come together to raise money for a great cause. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Due to the low numbers participating in the actual walk, organizers arranged for the silent auction and raffle items to be carried over to their Dinner For Life event on May 3. The event is sponsored by the Eureka Community Initiative and will be held at the Town Square inside the Eureka Casino, 275 Mesa Blvd. The doors will open at 5 p.m. and dinner will be served promptly at 6 p.m. with a menu including stuffed artichoke, spring salad, surf and turf and a sweet dessert of chocolate celebration. Tickets are available at J.S. Merchant, next to Town Square, for $35 each, including tax and gratuity. There will also be live entertainment as well. All monies raised through the dinner and raffles will go towards the Mesquite Relay For Life numbers.

Survivors release their balloons after finishing the Survivors Lap at the 2016 Mesquite Relay For Life on April 15. Photo courtesy of Jesselyn Bickley.

Survivors release their balloons after finishing the Survivors Lap at the 2016 Mesquite Relay For Life on April 15. Photo courtesy of Jesselyn Bickley.

Donations outside of the event are still encouraged, as funds for the event can be raised through the end of August. To make a donation online, go to www.relayforlife.org and search for the Mesquite event.

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