The streets of the Santa Maria Valley were buzzing with activity Wednesday morning. On dozens of street corners, hundreds of volunteers donated their time to participate in the annual Day of Hope fundraiser. Now in its third year, the 5-hour event raises money to assist patients at Mission Hope Cancer in Santa Maria.
"It's rewarding, it's nice to help and see the people come in and help support the cause," said Jesus Manriquez, Rancho Harvest owner. "We all get touched by cancer, whether family or friends, we all get touched for it, and it's a rewarding to help out."
More than 40 teams representing various local businesses, organizations, charities, churches, schools, offices and other groups sold special edition Santa Maria Times newspapers for $1.00. All of the money raised will directly benefit cancer patients, such as Melissa Soto, who purchased a newspaper herself while on her way to work.
"They (Mission Hope) do an amazing job," said Soto. "They make you feel so welcome there. They make it fun, you don't ever feel like you're going through something rough. It's really an amazing place. They're loving people."
While the newspapers cost just $1.00, volunteers noted many people who donated gave much more.
"People are giving us $20, $50 dollar bills, it's really cool. I'm glad that they know it's for a good cause," said volunteer Alex Vazquez, with CoastHills Credit Union.
For many who purchased a newspaper, their donation to the cause was particularly personal.
"I'm supporting this because a little over a year ago my dad passed away from cancer and Mission Hope really helped us," said Anna Lopez.
Organizers emphasize the fundraiser stays in the community to help out patients at Mission Hope in a variety of ways, such as assisting with grocery bills, rent payments and transportation issues.
"Every single penny of that money stays here and it goes directly to helping our patients," said Dr. Robert Dichmann, Medical Director, Mission Hope Cancer Center. "We're not looking for this money to be used for new equipment or things like that. We put this money directly to patients needs, not necessarily medical needs."
Created two years ago in the Santa Maria Valley, the Day of Hope has expanded its scope each year since. Last year, the event included volunteers selling papers in Lompoc, while this year marked a move north into San Luis Obispo County, with papers sold along Tefft Street in Nipomo. The Nipomo location was such a big success, newspapers sold out in just over an hour.