Thursday, June 25, 2015

Fighting Cancer - A Family Affair (Assignment 3)

Her facebook page is covered in ribbons of all colors. 

Each one has a name, and a title: “survivor,” “fighter,” and “in memory.” For Carol Smith, the beginning of summer means the beginning of another round of fundraising for her team – The Cancer Kickers.

My sister Kari was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010. Just about the same time, William (then 8) was a part of CubScouts and his local leader challenged the boys to fill a 2-litre bottle with pennies to donate to Relay For Life. William started calling everyone in our family and instead of filling 1 bottle ... he filled 17! He raised $1543 IN PENNIES that first year. The second year, William wanted to raise MORE money than the year before ... we decided the best way to do this was to start our OWN team. And the rest is history!”

(For more on the story of William’s work with pennies, see this article:

The Smith family works together to raise money for the American Cancer Society ( through the Relay For Life event ( “We participated first in 2010; we were individuals on someone else's "team". In 2011, we formed a family team, the Cancer Kickers, and have "relayed" since then collectively as The Cancer Kickers. Our family team has members from California, Idaho, Washington and Nevada. Many family members travel to the event and it always serves as a mini family reunion for us as well!”

It’s a reunion that brings together family, friends, and supporters in an emotional tribute to those who have lost their battles and those who are continuing to fight. Jen Pellizzari, a friend of Carol’s who walked as part of her team in 2014 described her experience. “Before [the event] I was doing it to join a team and make new friends. During [the event], EMOTIONAL. They do a video slideshow of people who have lost their battle as well as a luminary where they light up hundreds of bags that have peoples name on them. It was amazing and heartbreaking all at the same time.”

High emotions are to be expected at an event that touches so many lives. For the 2013 fiscal year, ACS raised over 975 million dollars (nearly 885 million of which was from the general public) (ACS 2014 Stewardship Report The Cancer Kickers are proud to be doing their part. “Since 2010, our family has raised more than $72,500 for the American Cancer Society. The monies raised are used for research, education, services and advocacy.”

For 2015, donations to Cancer Kickers are in full swing. As of June 25, the team total is at $9,550. Nearly half of their $20,000 goal by July 18. Carol explains that the key to successful fundraising is just to ask. “ASK EVERYONE YOU KNOW FOR A DONATION! Most people I run into that say "I can't raise that much money" can't because they don't ask. If you don't ask, the answer will always be no. Many people feel that a donation needs to be significant ($50+) to make a difference. But I have had many people THANK ME for asking them because they had a family member battling and they didn't know how they could make a difference.”

Her straightforward approach is certainly working. Last year (2014) she raised her personal best - $2500+ by simply asking for a $5 from everyone she knew. “Of course, many people gave more than $5, but when some friends realized that $5 helped, they were willing. Whereas if I had just asked for a "donation" they might have said no thinking I needed at least $25 - $50.” It’s working again this year – for 2015, Carol herself has already raised $1,025 of her $2,000 personal goal.

(To see the Cancer Kicker’s current total, or to donate, go to:

To see Carol’s personal total, or to donate, go to:

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Weather or Not...Definitely Weather

Summer temperatures in Northern California rose steeply at the beginning of June. Though not a record year – yet – the 104°temperature on June 8 is getting close. Stockton residents are feeling the pressure of the heat.

Screenshot from showing the near record highs in Stockton.
The heat affects me and my family tremendously. Anything that is outdoors I have to carefully consider, not just for comfort, but also for safety.” Local photographer and mother, Christine Curry, expressed concerns about the effect that higher temperatures will have on her business and family.
“Because I’m a photographer, I have had to postpone many sessions due to the heat. I take medication that requires me to stay out of the sun, so shooting in the mid-day heat, just doesn't work. …when summer comes, my bill jumps typically by $300+ more a month. Because of the drought, my kids can't go out and play in the hose/sprinklers. So that means we all lay low inside the house.”
The Curry family aren’t the only ones hiding out inside to escape the heat. Another local mom, B.J. Mooney, explains, “I don't mind the hot weather, it's the trying not to turn on the air since it's a financial burden on me. I work so I get the nice cool air there. I turn on all the fans in the house.”
Screenshot from
10-Day forecast for Stockton - more heat means more time indoors for residents.

Financial concerns are a big deal for California residents, and the additional stress of summer heat waves sends more numbers than the thermometer upward. “Our bill can jump by $300 in the summer; we have a tri-level house. The top level will be 100° and the bottom will be 85° - so hot.” Another mom, Tina Martinez, is also dealing with the additional financial burden of the heat.
The sun scorches down on Stockton - at 103°

The extreme drought in California and the extra high temperatures are not making it easy for residents. The cost of living in California is already in the top three most expensive in the US, and additional costs due to heat and lack of water are only adding to an already bad situation.
Stockton is in the middle of a Chapter 9 bankruptcy, so there’s no real help from the government available to cut energy costs. Many residents try to update their homes in order to keep energy costs lower, and solar energy is a growing industry.
Occupants are recommended to have regular maintenance done on their AC units, run indoor fans as often as possible, and turn up their thermostats a degree or two to help bring costs down.