Rick Tortes attended the opening and closing ceremonies of the American Cancer Society Relay for Life in Laguna Beach.
In between, he walked all 24 hours of the annual event — by himself and with newfound friends — in memory of his mother.
"Ricky called me the Thursday before the event and said he wanted to walk all 24 hours," said Vicki Jobe, society liaison. "He said, 'The pain I'll feel is nothing like the pain a cancer patient goes through.' Everybody fell in love with him. He was pretty much the star of the event, and he made hundreds of new friends."
Tortes completed 61 laps.
He was on lap 50 when participant Ali Hawthorne emailed media about his dedication: "He says, 'Mom fought hard, and I have to fight too.'"
Tortes was among the estimated 300 participants and visitors at the fundraiser held Saturday and Sunday at El Morro Elementary School.