Relay For Life of Upper Illinois Valley committee members, Linda Kofoid, left, and Nancy Jackson are gearing up for the 2018 Relay event, which will take place at Mendota High School on Saturday, July 14. (Reporter photo by Bonnie Morris)
MENDOTA – Some things old and some things new have been planned for the 2018 Relay For Life of Upper Illinois Valley. Many favorite activities that are held each year at the Relay’s Night of Hope, such as the games, campsite decorating contest, luminaria ceremony and silent auction, will return. The most notable change this year will be the move to Mendota High School for the event.
Nancy Jackson and Linda Kofoid, who serve on the Relay’s planning committee, explained that having a mostly-indoors event this year saved money, time and the number of volunteers needed. “We don’t have to get golf carts, porta potties or garbage collection,” Jackson said of the decision. “The high school is going to be ready for us, it will be cool inside and it will be a bug-free zone!”
Preceding the Relay, the Survivor Dinner will also take place at MHS and is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. in the high school cafeteria. Each survivor attending the dinner is welcome to bring a guest; sign-in will begin at 4:15 p.m. “We’re calling it “Cafeteria For the Cure” and Olive Garden will cater the dinner,” Kofoid noted.
Like last year, the Relay will begin at 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 14 and end at midnight, rather than continuing overnight. Jackson and Kofoid said over the years, the trend had been for most Relay team members to leave for the night and then return for the closing ceremony in the morning, so it just made sense to shorten the event. Relay teams will set up their camps in the MHS gym and down the adjacent hallways. As in the past, an award will be given to the campsite chosen as the best decorated giving that team bragging rights for the coming year.
The opening ceremony will again feature a color guard and local scouting troops leading the Pledge of Allegiance. This year’s speaker for the opening ceremony will be cancer survivor Dan Brooks of Peru. Brooks, a former high school teacher, started a cancer support group in Peru and is an ACS Road to Recovery driver who volunteers his time to drive patients to medical appointments and treatments at no cost.
As is customary, the Survivors’ Lap will be the first to go around the track. For the next lap, the survivors will be joined by their supporters for the Caregivers’ Lap, and then a Team Captains Lap will follow. New this year, will be a Hero Lap, which includes anyone who serves others such as police, fire, EMTs, doctors, nurses and military. “Anybody who has anything to do with being a hero,” Kofoid said. “These are all heroes.”
A number of food vendors will be located outdoors and depending on the weather, the luminaria ceremony may also move outside. Luminaria bags are purchased to honor, or in memory of people affected by cancer. The bags can be ordered online prior to the Relay for $10 each or purchased from Relay committee members or at the Mendota City Clerk’s office. They may also be purchased at the event.
“The luminaria ceremony is the most powerful activity of the night,” Jackson emphasized. “When we’re given names for the luminaria bags, we add them to our scrolling visual display that runs continuously on a blow-up screen during the Relay.”
Kofoid noted that people who purchase bags may also send pictures. “If we get them soon enough, we can put the picture with the name in the display,” she added.
One of the more popular events, the Dessert Walk, will return this year. “Oh my gosh, that was so huge,” Jackson laughed recalling last year’s event. “When we did the Dessert Walk last year, they couldn’t get people to stop. It was supposed to go an hour and it went almost double that - luckily we had enough desserts.”
A bigger-than-ever array of silent auction items and baskets will be offered this year. The items will be on display and bids will be accepted throughout the evening until the auction closes around 10 p.m.
Jackson and Kofoid, who are both members of team “Angels Among Us,” said their team is doing a large fundraiser as are many of the other Relay teams. Thanks to a donation from Starved Rock Wood Products, the team is holding a kitchen cabinet raffle. “They donated a $10,000 kitchen for us to raffle,” Jackson said. “They will come to your house and measure and you choose what you want. They will go anywhere the winner is located, even out of state.”
Only 1,000 tickets will be sold and all of the proceeds will go to the team for this year’s Relay. Second prize will be $1,000, third prize $500 and fourth is a painting by local artist John Dossett. The winning ticket will be drawn at the Relay on July 14.
Another large fundraiser will be a Dad’s Day 5K on Sunday, June 17 at Strouss Park in Mendota hosted by Relay For Life team “Breast Friends.” Check in will begin at 7 a.m. and the race will start at 8 a.m. A pancake breakfast will be served after race.
Prizes will be awarded for age groups (male/female) 9/under, 10-13, 14-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59,60-64, 65-99; as well as prizes to the male/female overall winner and 1st, 2nd and 3rd in each group.
The race will take place rain or shine. For more information, visit “American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Upper Illinois Valley” on Facebook or contact Rita Borelli.
Jackson, a cancer survivor who works at the Cancer Center in Peru, said she witnesses the effects of the disease every day at her job. “I see the hope and the heartache, and how many people are truly touched by this,” she explained. “We have people who come in with as many as 10 friends and relatives for support while they’re getting treatment.”
Money raised by the Relay is the reason so many local programs are available to people diagnosed with cancer. The Look Good, Feel Better program, in which a cosmetologist provides makeup and gives tips for hair care and skin care, is one that Jackson understands on a personal level. “When you have no eyebrows, no eyelashes, no hair and you’ve been through the wringer - they get you as close to death as they can to save you - you feel invisible, like you don’t even exist,” she said. “When you put some makeup on and you’re giggling with other women, it’s a bonding experience. I’m still friends with the women I did the program with. You can have the best family and friends in the world but they don’t really get it. It’s the survivors and caregivers that truly, truly understand the battle and the journey.”
For questions or more information about the 2018 Relay For Life, contact committee members Rita Borelli at (815) 910-5093, Nancy Jackson at (815) 830-4179 or Sandi Maas at (815) 539-5418.
To make a donation to Relay For Life of Upper Illinois Valley, to sign up or to join a team, visit www.relayforlife.org/upperillinoisvalleyil.