When Dale and Sandy Horton woke up Tuesday morning, their front yard on Magnolia Avenue in Modesto was filled with pink objects.
“I thought maybe it had something to do with Mother’s Day,” Sandy said.
Instead, it was a “Care Bear Attack,” a dozen or so pink bears on posts accompanied by signs and a note that said it was all part of the fun leading up to the Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society fundraiser Saturday.
“CARE kills cancer,” read one of the signs.
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Here’s how the program works: Someone makes a donation and requests the bears be sent to a home where a resident is fighting cancer. The bears, along with signs promoting the Relay for Life and an explanatory note, are delivered. The recipient can keep them for up to 48 hours or request that the bears be removed immediately, but they are given the opportunity to “pass it forward” and give the name and address of another cancer patient.
“So many people have stopped by to look at it,” Sandy said. “This is beautiful, caring, loving.”
Dale has had a couple of brushes with cancer and surgeries in the past couple of years. Then, almost exactly a year ago, he underwent another surgery for brain cancer. He was told he would most likely live only seven months.
But the former Marine, who was shot in Vietnam and earned a Purple Heart, was walking with a cane Tuesday, inspecting the bears.
“Good thing it wasn’t toilet paper (left in the yard),” he said with a chuckle. He said he didn’t know who had sent him the bear attack, but he thought it was a good idea and already had designated a friend with cancer who next would get the bears.
Asked about his prognosis, he said, “I went to the neurologist a month or so ago. He said, ‘What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be dead!’ ”
The Hortons said they are especially grateful to their daughter, Jolynne Cole, for her help over the past year. “We couldn’t have done it without her,” Sandy said.
That underscores one of the themes of the relay, in which groups of friends and relatives of cancer victims often form teams to raise funds to fight the disease.
The cancer bears are the brainchild of single mothers at Modesto Junior College who are part of the CARE (Cooperative Agencies Resources & Education) program. The group raised more than $8,000 last year for the relay and has more than $9,000 pledged so far, from the bear attacks, garage sales and other fundraisers.
“Our program is called CARE, so we came up with these Care Bears,” said Diane Gonzalez-Hill, a former member who mentors the moms. “Volunteers cut out the bears, and we painted them pink and rotate shifts to put them on people’s lawns.”
Three sets of the “attack bears” are making the rounds this year, she said.
Sandy Horton called them a blessing.
“My faith in God is tremendous,” she said. “This shows his love for me. The caring just means so much.”