Angels take action

CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle Charles Martinez strings lights to decorate the Charlie’s Angels team RV at the Relay for Life on Friday night at Ned Houk Park. The Martinez siblings created the team to honor their parents, who both died of cancer.

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

s Clovis Relay for Life walkers circled the luminaria-lined laps Friday night and Saturday morning at Ned Houk Park, many asked about the “Charlie’s Angels” area set up in one of the track corners.

Who were these Angels with more than 40 team members? A Harley-Davidson dealership? A large church membership?

The answer is neither. The team is a family spread throughout New Mexico and Texas, united by battles won and lost against cancer and the resolve to fight every year.

“My dad passed away four years ago of lung cancer,” Charlie’s Angels team captain Marlene Vela said, “and he would always call us his angels.”

After Charlie Martinez died, the nine siblings — five sisters, four brothers — decided to honor him and mother Preddie, who died about 30 years ago of brain cancer.

Now, the simple tribute includes two trailers, a mobile home, numerous tables and tents full of games for children as ways to raise funds during the annual American Cancer Society event.

Event organizers estimated $80,000 was raised through Saturday. Regional Event Coordinator Dorothy Nelson said a small percentage traditionally will come in the days following the relay through mailed or online donations.

Of that estimated $80,000, Nelson said about $29,000 came from fund raising similar to what the Charlie’s Angels team did.

The two trailers were akin to what one would see at a carnival, with nachos, burritos and other items for sale. Jolene Weiss worked one trailer with two of her sisters, while other siblings worked the other.

Weiss owns a Pizza Hut/Taco Bell franchise in Shamrock, Texas, so she takes care of the food. Family makes up for the other part of the secret to fund raising.

“Cheap labor,” Weiss joked. “They get to eat a burrito or two, and that’s the end of that.”

Other fund-raisers from the team included a candy table and rubber-duck fishing.

The family’s influence stretches into the top ranks of the Clovis event as well, as event organizer Rebecca Holt was a former captain of the team. When she wanted to get more involved with the main event, she let her siblings take over.

“My family always were big supporters,” Holt said of her experience with the team. “I learned to delegate.”

Family also helped Vela, who is herself a survivor of thyroid cancer.

“If it wasn’t for family, it would have been harder for me to get through,” Vela said. “They were there throughout.”