Have you ever seen a poodle dressed in a purple tutu?
If you were driving down Tehachapi boulevard Saturday morning, that's exactly what you would have seen as the 11th Annual Bark For Life was held at the Train Depot Museum.
Participants and survivors arrived with their canines decked out in shades of the traditional purple in support of the American Cancer Society's fundraiser. After registration and an introduction from Bark For Life Chairman Barbara Villasenor, man and beast set out on foot and walked throughout downtown, waving at the passing cars and pedestrians.
"When we find a cure for humans, we will find a cure for pets, so we will keep fighting," said Villasenor, who lost both her father and her dog to cancer and later founded the local event.
Villasenor said this year's event saw 67 pre-registered participants, with many more signing up that day. Pre-registered participants all received goodie bags from event sponsor Canine Creek.
"All the people you see here in purple are survivors, and they wouldn't be here today without the research," said Donna Hermann of the American Cancer Society and staff partner to the local Bark For Life.
According to Hermann, it is because of research that the cancer death rate has declined by 29 percent since 1991.
"Not only do we conduct research, but we also provide rides for patients for life-saving treatment and overnight stays in hotels so they can go to the hospital," Hermann said. "We also provide wigs for the patients."
According to Hermann, in 2018, the American Cancer Society provided 687 rides, 187 overnight stays and 68 wigs in Kern County.
"We are a global organization making a local impact," Hermann said.
Arriving as a crowd favorite with a double stroller, which she decorated in purple and carried "The Maltese Four" was Carol Rokey, who was herself dressed in purple from head to toe.
"We are walking for my son, Jay Steelman, who had cancer, and for my sister-in-law who unfortunately passed away from cancer, and my other two dogs who also passed away from cancer," Rokey said.
Accompanying Rokey and her four dogs was Carmen Selmick, also dressed in purple from her purple wig to her purple leg warmers. Both women have been walking in the annual event for the past three years, with Selmick walking in memory of her grandmother, who passed away from pancreatic cancer.