Editor’s note: The “Meet the” series profiles the people behind groups, organizations and businesses in the community.
By Lillian Bowe
It’s been a big part of her life for the last decade, but the Portales Relay for Life takes on even more importance this year for Yolanda Sanchez.
Last May, Sanchez lost her mother, Celia Ortega, to cancer. Now, she is more determined than ever to raise money and help find a cure.
Sanchez is a captain for one of 36 teams, so far, participating in this year’s Relay for Life on April 25 at Eastern New Mexico University’s Greyhound Arena.
Relay for Life is an annual fundraising event for the American Cancer Society, which says it uses the money for cancer research, education and treatment. Sanchez’s 17-member team is from Lindsey-Steiner Elementary. The team is made up of teachers and staff. Sanchez is the secretary at the school and a breast cancer survivor.
“I try to raise money for my team by doing several fundraisers. We have sold popcorn, pickles and luminaries,” Sanchez said.
Connie Cuevas-Florez, who works in finance and accounts payable at Portales Municipal Schools, is also trying to raise money for her team at her job.
Cuevas-Florez has been a part of Relay for Life for more than 11 years and served as a coach almost every year. She also worked as vendor chairperson.
“Relay is so important as cancer affects almost everyone as I lost my step-father to cancer,” Cuevas-Florez said.
Cuevas-Florez said she loves the event, especially the first lap around the gym that the cancer survivors take.
Misha Riley lost her uncle to cancer and has been a part of Relay in Portales for two years and Melrose for six years. Riley is an ENMU student, working on her degree in business administration.
Riley is also the ENMU team recruitment chair. She distributes flyers on campus encouraging students to start or join teams.
“I really like being a coach and trying to recruit people to join and raise money,” Riley said.