SANTA MARIA, Calif. - One of the most popular and important fundraisers held annually in Santa Maria is set to return this weekend.
"Cruzin' for Life is amazing to see the whole entire community come together," said Cruzin' for Life team leader Monica Barragan. "It's our 14th year. We raise funds for cancer patients."
Created in 2004 by the Labastida brothers, the two-day event includes several different activities, such as a car show, car cruise, plus a dinner and auction.
Each year, the event raises more than $100,000, all through generous community support.
The primary beneficiary of Cruzin' for Life is Marian Cancer Care and Mission Hope Cancer Center.
"Cruzin for Life has been tremendous over the years," said Mission Hope medical director Dr. Robert Dichmann. "They have been a constant supporter even before we were opened."
Once it receives its donation later this year from Cruzin' organizers, the 5-year-old cancer center will pass a significant milestone.
"Cruzin' for Life will this year will pass the $1 million mark and just think of what that has meant to our patients, considering that essentially that's all gone back to them," said Dr. Dichmann. "That's $1 million they wouldn't have had, so it's been a tremendous asset for our patients and they're incredibly appreciative."
Dr. Dichmann emphasized money raised goes directly to cancer patients, not to any administrative or organization costs.
"We use (Cruzin' donations) on a daily basis," said Dr. Dichmann. "They have been vital in providing a lot of funds for our patients that we use to help them with things like groceries or rent and things like that."
Cruzin' for Life has also helped purchase and maintain two vehicles for Mission Hope, including a passenger van and Toyota Prius.
They bring people to the cancer center essentially every single day. We have a tremendous number of rides every single year," said Dr. Dichmann. "It makes a tremendous different for those patients. Obviously, getting your treatment is critical when you're dealing with this disease."
Taking part in the event will be the Santa Maria-based Bent Axles Car Club, which has participated for many years.
"A lot of our club members and their family members have been touched with cancer, so this particular show this weekend is very important to us," said club president Ann McKindley.
One of the most popular events during the Cruzin' for Life weekend, perhaps its most emotional and poignant, is the "survivor's cruise" down Broadway on Friday night.
"Bent Axels will take survivors and put them in the cars," said McKindley. "The survivors will have a flag on the car that will let the people who will be attending the cruise that the person that's riding is a survivor."
McKindley adds the cruise is a wonderful opportunity for the public to express their well wishes to those who are fighting or have fought the disease.
"The reaction is wonderful," said McKindley "(People) stand up and they clap. Other people will drive by in different directions and will honk their horns. It's great. We feel like it's something we need to do."
Cruzin' for Life will be held at the Santa Maria Fairpark on Sept. 15-16.
It will also benefit Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties and other local cancer care services.
"(Organizers) have been tremendous and it's just a group of people that love helping the community and have a passion for cars and helping those in Santa Maria that can really use some help," said Dr. Dichmann.
For more information, visit www.cruzinforlife.net