BAKERSFIELD, CA - Bakersfield's Relay for Life still holds the title as the largest event of its kind in the world. While this year's event brought in more than $1.7 million, it's hundreds of thousands of dollars short of last year. Some wonder if the newly formed Kern County Cancer Fund had something to do with the decrease.
Last October, two major Relay donors promised to still contribute to Relay, but said they would donate the majority of their money to the new Kern County Cancer Fund. The move might not only have taken away from the Relay total, it might have also driven a wedge between the charities.
Since the $1.68 million check presentation last Sunday, Git Patel of the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center or CBCC has been asked this question.
"Why didn't the Relay do the two million it was always doing?" said Patel, Director of Business Development at CBCC.
The total has risen since Sunday to $1.76 million, but that's still less than the $2.1 raised in 2012.
Patel has been a Relay for Life committee member for the past 15 years. In past events, teams from CBCC would raise $65,000 for the American Cancer Society. But, that stopped this year when they found out, of the $2.5 million raised locally in 2011, less than $73,000 went directly to patient care in Kern County.
"When we saw that it was a big shock for us," said Patel of the numbers.
The news prompted Fight for Life organizer, Leslie Knox, to donate to the newly former Kern County Cancer Fund or KCCF, which was started by Dr. Ravi Patel as a new program under the CBCC Foundation for Community Wellness.
Money raised at the annual event typically donated Bakersfield's Relay for Life, would instead go to the new fund to help pay for everyday expenses, transportation, and treatments for local cancer patients at any facility.
Fight for Life raised $632,000 this year which was matched by Dr. Patel. This gave the fund a $1.26 million base.
"If they are not able to get the transportation or if they are not able to get their treatments on time, then they are not going to be able to reap the benefits of the research that would come down the pike," said Git Patel.
At this year's Relay, CBCC had five teams raising money for the American Cancer Society. Git Patel said while they raised less than previous years, they still contributed nearly $20,000 with a $10,000 sponsorship.
But, he said the CBCC team was not acknowledged at the event as were other teams with equal sponsorships.
"But our team did feel that they were not respected as much you know. But, you know what? We've got to come out of it for our patients," said Patel.
The American Cancer Society told 17 News they had no one available to speak on camera about this issue. Initially they told us they would speak over the phone, but eventually declined that request as well.
They did release a statement saying, "The American Cancer Society looks forward to continuing its collaboration with the Bakersfield community - the dedicated individuals and partner organizations that will help us together finish the fight against cancer."
Git Patel said both the American Cancer Society and the Kern County Cancer Fund are needed to provide the best patient care in our community, but next year he may only be a part of one.
"I'll be back at the Relay, but I'm not sure if I will be back for the American Cancer Society next year," said Patel.
Patel said the Kern County Cancer Fund has helped at least 22 patients and spent more than $100,000. It has about a dozen applications which a committee meets twice a month to review and approve. Fund organizers are planning a fundraiser of their own right now.