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MORE THAN 300 walkers and runners crossed the finish line on a cold yet sunny Saturday morning for the St. Joseph’s Foundation of San Joaquin’s 14th Annual Fun Run/Walk for Wellness at University Park Campus in Stockton.

The Fun Run/Walk for Wellness originally started as a staff event hosted by St. Joseph’s Wellness Committee, said Philanthropy Manager Oscar Segura Guerrero. Over the years, the event has gone community wide, hosted by St. Joseph’s Foundation of San Joaquin.

Segura Guerrero noted that the event had a total of 570 registrations and about 150 “virtual runners” who reside in distant cities and registered for the run to complete in their own locations.

Runners and walkers take part in the St. Joseph’s 14th Annual Fun Run/Walk for Wellness in Stockton on Jan. 28, 2023. Many of the participants ran in support of family members who survived cancer or to remember a loved one lost to the disease. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

The family-friendly community event was organized with a goal to raise $91,000 and ultimately raised more than $95,000, all of which would stay local to benefit St. Joseph’s Cancer Institute, according to the organizers.

The event had participants running in support of family members who survived cancer or remembering a loved one lost to cancer.

Minerva Oliva’s was one such family. Oliva lost her sister Victoria Oliva to cervical cancer in January 2022 shortly before her 37th birthday. She brought together friends and family close to her sister for the event, where everyone took part wearing matching black hoodies and purple garlands.

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“Purple was her favorite color,” Oliva said of her sister, whose death occurred one year ago last week. “She would have turned 38 this Monday, and we wanted to honor her during this time by coming out to the run.”

Another family also sported cancer-related T-shirts — one celebrating members of the family surviving the battle. Julian Galapia, 78, took it upon himself to make custom tees for his daughter Stephanie Ramirez and son Jeff Galapia, both of whom are cancer survivors.

Jeff Galapia, now 50, discovered his tumor a few days before his 46th birthday in 2018. A few months later, his sister, Stephanie Ramirez, who was 45 then, had her cancer diagnosis.

A group of walkers approach the finish line during St. Joseph’s 14th Annual Fun Run/Walk for Wellness in Stockton on Saturday. More than 570 people registered for the event, including 150 virtual runners. (Harika Maddala/Bay City News/Catchlight Local)

Stephanie Ramirez, 49, shared that she ran her 18th marathon back in 2018, right before she was diagnosed with Stage 3 colorectal cancer. “I ran this [St. Joseph’s] race the first year they had it,” she said. “This is actually my first race that I got to run again, because I have been recovering for the last three years.” After several rounds of chemo and radiation, Ramirez had her final surgery in August 2019.

Ramirez’s father placed third in the male 70-79 category of the race. Their family was joined by a couple of friends who also lost a family member to cancer in the past year.

Harika Maddala is a photojournalist based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. They are a Report for America corps member and a CatchLight Local Fellow.