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Are you ready to Relay?

Annual Relay for Life is Friday ... with some changes

Published: Monday, July 28, 2014 5:04 p.m. CST • Updated: Monday, July 28, 2014 5:07 p.m. CST

SPRING VALLEY — It’s that time of year again, when a sea of purple T-shirts and the brave men, women and children who wear them proudly will congregate at Hall High School. Besides the fun, the camaraderie, the laughter and even a few tears, they all have one thing in mind ... a hope for a cure.

The annual American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in Bureau County steps off this Friday at the Hall High School track in Spring Valley. A time to honor cancer survivors as well as those who have lost their battles with the disease, the overnight event is free and open to the public.

While many have attended this event throughout the years, event-goers will experience a different Relay this year. Because of changes in the American Cancer Society (ACS), two new Relay for Life specialists from the Peoria office — Tanya Huntington and TJ Klockenga — have embraced the local Relay, and they will be working to rebuild the Bureau County event.

“This year is going to be different than the Relays for Life in the past,” Huntington said. “This will be our rebuilding year because of managerial changes (at the ACS). There have been several reorganizations in the American Cancer Society, so we are reorganizing the event.”

Huntington said she expects this year’s Relay to be a smaller and fast-paced event. Relay for Life teams are able to set up their campsites from 3 to 6 p.m. A dinner will be served to cancer survivors and their guest at 5 p.m. in the Hall High School cafeteria. Reservations can be made by calling Huntington at 309-648-9685.

Opening ceremonies begin at 6 p.m. on the track. After a welcome by Klockenga, an honorary survivor speech will be given by Renae Philhower of Ohio, Ill., who was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma last year. As always there will be a survivor/caregiver victory lap and introductions of the Relay for Life teams.

At 6:30 p.m. at the conclusion of the opening ceremonies, activities for youth will begin and the walking track is open.

Perhaps the most moving of all events is the luminaria ceremony, which is set for 9 p.m. Luminaria can be purchased to honor someone who has lost their battle with cancer or to applaud a cancer survivor. At the Relay, the luminaria will be lit and names of cancer survivors or those bought as memorials will be read.

The rest of the evening will proceed with a variety of activities, including specialty laps, a midnight movie, a scavenger hunt and more. The closing ceremony is early Saturday at 6 a.m.

Everyone is invited to come and stay as long as they like, whether it’s just for the opening ceremony, the lighting of the luminaria, or for the entire evening.

“We’re really excited to be a part of the Bureau County Relay for Life team,” Huntington said. “We’ve spent a lot of time meeting some wonderful friends and supporters of the American Cancer Society in Bureau County. I can’t believe how welcoming people have been here. It’s very endearing. I can tell people really care a lot about this cause and the event.

“As I said, this year will be a rebuilding year. Those who came in the past will definitely notice some differences. This year will be a smaller event, but we are looking forward to improving and revamping Relay for Life Bureau County to honor those who have fought the battle, those who have ultimately lost and to continue the research so others will never have to experience this dreaded disease.

“Sometimes I get so caught up in working to get the Relay underway, but when I really sit back and think about it, this event could be just the one that raises the dollars to find a cure for cancer,” Huntington said.

Sponsors of the event are Hall High School, Heartland Bank and Trust Co., Illinois Valley Community Hospital and the Bureau County Republican. Gary Swanson is donating his expertise in providing sound/music for the Relay.

For more information, contact Huntington at 309-648-9685.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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