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Relay for Life plans kickoff event

Posted: Tuesday, Feb 12th, 2013

MENDOTA – The Relay For Life of Upper Illinois Valley has changed the location of its annual kick-off event to the Mendota Civic Center. The fun will begin at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21 with entertainment, snacks and information on some of the new activities planned for this year. The kick-off is open to the public as well as Relay team members, cancer survivors, caregivers, friends and neighbors. Anyone interested in learning more about Relay For Life is encouraged to attend this special event.

Relay For Life is an overnight event in which teams of local businesses, schools, churches, community groups and families build awareness and raise funds - prior to and at the event - to fight cancer. This year’s Relay For Life of Upper Illinois Valley (RFLUIV) will take place on Saturday, July 13 at Lake Mendota. Event chairman Nancy Jackson and co-chair Jesse Arellano hope to make the third annual Relay held at Lake Mendota bigger and better than ever. “The last two Relays have been phenomenal, so it will be a challenge,” Jackson said. “But we hope to have even more people involved and we especially want more cancer survivors to participate.”

Whether directly or indirectly, cancer affects everyone in some way. In Illinois, more than 65,000 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2012 and 23,970 Illinois residents died from cancer last year. Chances are, one of those people was someone you knew.

While the main objective of Relay For Life is to raise money for cancer research and cancer patients, the event also helps spread cancer awareness, celebrate the lives of survivors, remember those who lost their lives to cancer and unite a community in the fight against cancer.

As a cancer survivor herself, Jackson said she is well aware of the support offered by the American Cancer Society (ACS). “We raised $156,000 at the Relay last year, and that sounds like a lot of money, but I’ve seen for myself how important that money is to cancer patients,” Jackson emphasized. “I know what the ACS did for me and for many other people with the assistance they provide.”

Jackson said she also appreciates that most of the money raised at Relay events actually goes toward helping people: 72 percent for research and programs such as wigs and lodging for patients who travel to chemotherapy, 21 percent to community events such as Relay For Life, and only 7 percent to costs and overhead.

In addition to providing information, the kick-off event is an opportunity for teams to choose their Relay campsite, win prizes and learn more about the new activities planned for 2013. Jackson said among the new features this year will be a butterfly release and a special survivors’ dinner, which will be held just prior to the start of the Relay on July 13.

Jackson also noted that there will again be help for anyone who is interested in walking at the Relay but needs some assistance. “We will have wheelchairs and golf carts available for anyone needing them,” she said. “We really hope to get more people involved whether as team members or as volunteers. Everyone is welcome.”

As an incentive, teams and individuals who sign up the night of the kick-off will not have to pay a sign up fee. “The $10 fee will be credited to your goal and your team, if you sign up on Feb. 21,” Jackson said.

Last year, 55 teams gathered at the Upper Illinois Valley Relay in Mendota and over 500 participants signed up for the event. “All those teams, those relayers and all the money raised, but it wasn't enough,” Jackson said, emphasizing how important – and personal - this cause is to her. “This year we are HOPING for more teams and more relayers to help us in our fight. When we all come together, we are one team with one dream and one hope.”

For more information on Relay For Life or the kick-off celebration, contact Nancy Jackson at (815) 830-4179 or e-mail rfluiv@yahoo.com. Teams may register online anytime at Relayforlife.org/upperillinoisvalleyil.

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