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Relay for Life continues its fight against cancer

SPRING VALLEY — The mission of Relay for Life of Bureau County is to give hope to people affected by cancer and to raise funds for the American Cancer Society, according to spokesperson Shirley Morse.

For nearly 20 years, Relay for Life of Bureau County has put feet to its mission by organizing an overnight walk fundraiser at the Hall High School track in Spring Valley. Friendships and support groups have been formed. Throughout the years, $1,344,258 has been raised for the American Cancer Society.

On Aug. 2, Bureau County area residents and guests are encouraged to participate in the next Relay for Life walk, which begins at 5 p.m. with a free survivor dinner for survivors and their guests, followed by the official kick-off at 6:30 p.m. The event continues through the night until 5 a.m. Aug. 3. with a closing ceremony. Of course, people may come and go as needed, Morse said.

The idea of taking the Relay for Life fundraiser through the night each year is to symbolize how cancer doesn’t sleep, Morse said. The darkest hours of the night represent the darkest times of chemotherapy and treatment, but with the breaking of day comes hope, she added.

Morse said the entire evening is filled with meaningful experiences. Traditionally, among the most moving moments are those designated for the survivor lap, in which cancer survivors walk the track as a group, the lap honoring caregivers, and the luminaria lap, in which a luminaria bag is lit for someone who has had cancer, whether they are a survivor or not.

The evening also includes live music, a crazy hat and shoe lap, a treasure hunt and a wheelbarrow lap. This year’s scheduled guest speakers are Jessica (Wallace) Sergeant, formerly of Walnut, who is in the midst of her cancer battle, and caregiver Dawn Dieckman from the Galesburg area, whose preschool son died from cancer.

Every aspect of the evening will focus on giving hope to people and helping them and their families to realize they aren’t in the battle alone, Morse said.

Funds raised through Relay for Life of Bureau County go to the American Cancer Society and are used primarily for cancer research. Funds are also used for various other educational and support programs, like a wig program to provide free wigs to cancer patients, with Sophisticuts Salon & Day Spa in Princeton working on the local program.

On a personal note, Morse said she has been involved in Relay for Life since 2007 and as official co-chairman for the annual Relay For Life annual event for the past three years. Morse became a widow at the age of 30, when she lost her husband, Jim Morse, to cancer.

In the beginning, Relay for Life was a way to give back, a way to keep her husband’s memory close and to feel like she was making a difference for other people, Morse said. As time has gone on, she has realized also she wants her career to be involved with working with cancer patients.

But for now, looking ahead to Aug. 2-3, Morse said she wants people to come to the event, to enjoy being with others who have experienced their own battles with cancer, and then to take a sense of hope with them when they leave.

“”I want them to take hope with them because there are so many people who care about them. I want them to know they are not alone,” Morse said. “Also, I want them to have hope because we are making strides in cancer research, and maybe our kids and our grandkids won’t have to deal with cancer like we’ve had to do.”

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