SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The Santa Maria Valley has a reputation for pulling together during times of need.
It's a spirit that shows frequently throughout the year during various charitable fundraisers, such as the annual Day of Hope, which benefits patient services at Mission Hope Cancer Center.
This year, the community and surrounding area proved once again just how giving it is during Wednesday's Day of Hope Thank You Celebration.
The luncheon was held event sponsors, volunteers, cancer patients, committee members, and Marian Regional Medical Center and Mission Hope staff.
During the 90-minute event, there were patient testimonials and remarks from program leaders. One of the biggest highlights was the announcement of the final dollar amount raised during the day-long fundraiser.
"So the final amount that we raised this year is over $170,000, so we're super excited because last year we hit the $150,000 and we did much more than we hoped to raise," said Day of Hope planning chairwoman Dr. Monica Rocco.
Held on April 11, the Day of Hope featured more than 600 volunteers spread across the Santa Maria Valley, as well as Lompoc and Nipomo.
Working in teams, volunteers sold special edition Santa Maria Times newspapers for $1 on street corners, parking lots, shopping centers, schools and other locations.
"We saw the typical Santa Maria spirit," said Dr. Robert Dichmann, Marian Cancer Care Medical Director. "We had so many people volunteering on the Day of Hope. We collected a significant amount of money for patients, which will be used for their care."
Dr. Dichmann emphasized all proceeds collected during the fundraiser directly benefit Mission Hope patients.
"There is no administrative cost to this at all," said Dr. Dichmann. "This is money that really is not even going back to research. We are actually putting it back directly into the hands of where we feel like it's needed the most. Simple things like paying for food, paying bills, paying for rent."
During the Thank You Celebration, Dr. Rocco recognized top fundraising teams, including Mary Buren Elementary School in Guadalupe, which raised nearly $1,500 while participating in the "Butterfly of Hope" coloring fundraiser.
In addition, Rancho Harvest was announced as the team that raised the most money during the event. The family-owned Santa Maria farm raised more than $4,000.
While Wednesday's luncheon closed the books on the 2017 Day of Hope, Dr. Rocco said the planning committee is already looking ahead to the next year, which will be the fifth anniversary of the event.
"We're going to try and think of some more creative ways," said Dr. Rocco. "We hope to have some new and exciting things for next year to make it bigger and better. I don't want to give away any secrets, but we do hope to have some exciting things for next year."
No date has been set for the 2018 Day of Hope.