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Local

Relay For Life to honor 20-year survivor

Cancer Society fundraiser Friday at Zearing Park

Jessica Heitz (right) is the honorary survivor for Friday's American Cancer Society Relay For Life event at Zearing Park in Princeton. Heitz, who is a 20-year survivor of cancer, is shown with her mother, Chris Znaniecki, who is going through treatment for liver cancer.
Jessica Heitz (right) is the honorary survivor for Friday's American Cancer Society Relay For Life event at Zearing Park in Princeton. Heitz, who is a 20-year survivor of cancer, is shown with her mother, Chris Znaniecki, who is going through treatment for liver cancer.

PRINCETON — Jessica Heitz of Princeton has been named the honorary survivor for Friday’s American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Bureau County event at Zearing Park in Princeton.

Relay participants will gather to help the American Cancer Society attack cancer from every angle.

The event starts at 3 p.m. Friday, with team campsite setup. Opening ceremonies will start at 5 p.m.

Heitz is a 20-year survivor of ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed at the age of 19, and had her left ovary removed before undergoing chemotherapy.

“I was told I wouldn’t have kids, but I have three kids today. My oldest is now 18 and going to college, and my youngest will start his freshman year at Princeton this year,” she said.

Heitz has been a familiar face at the Bureau County Relay For Life events. Her first event was in 2001 where she can remember taking her firstborn along with her. Heitz has also served as co-chair of the event in prior years.

Heitz will be sharing her uplifting story during Friday’s ceremony.

“I try to give people who are fighting or who are still in the recovery process hope that they can make it this far,” she said.

Heitz said Relay For Life has given her a supportive, positive community that she’s leaned on during the tougher times and who was with her every step of the way through her recovery process.

“I’ve met so many amazing people through Relay For Life,” she said.

Heitz is not the only one in her family who has been touched by the disease. Her mother, Chris Znaniecki, is currently going through treatment for liver cancer.

“Unfortunately, everyone, at some point in their lives, will be touched by cancer,” Tracy Carriere, an event organizer, said.

Relay For Life events such as Bureau County’s “support the American Cancer Society to continue to battle this disease in the hope that no one has to hear that devastating diagnosis,” Carriere said.

“So many strides have been made, but we are not done and will not stop fighting until cancer is eliminated,” she said.

This year’s local theme is the Games of the XXIII Relay. This is a sports theme celebrating the fact that Relay has been in Bureau County for 23 years. This family-friendly event is free to attend, although donations are appreciated.

Activities this year include a silent auction, a bags tournament, a badminton tournament, music, themed laps, face painting, and recognition of the local cancer survivors.

Themed laps include an Olympic Lap, Team Sports Lap and an Obscure Sports Lap.

In addition, it has become a tradition to start the event with a Community United Lap in which local law enforcement, veterans, first responders and civic organizations are recognized.

This year’s Bureau County event will conclude with a luminaria ceremony at 9 p.m. honoring cancer survivors and remembering those loved ones who have been lost to this terrible disease.

Relay For Life of Bureau County is supported by many local businesses and organizations who have donated items for the silent auction. This year’s major sponsors are St. Margaret’s Hospital, the LaMoille Lions Club, the Princeton Park District, Racing Expectations, Perry Memorial Hospital, the Princeton Jaycees, Illinois Valley Community Hospital, Valley Regional Cancer Center, BrenDazigns, Van-Packer Company, the Princeton Tiger Athletic Club and Dr. Phil’s Small Engine Repair.

Also recognized for ongoing support are the Bureau County Sheriff’s Department, Princeton Police Department, Bureau County Mounted Search and Rescue, Star Spangled Singers and the Princeton Poms squad.

For more information, to join this event or to donate to the Relay For Life of Bureau County, visit www.RelayForLife.org/bureBureauil or like them on Facebook at Relay For Life of Bureau County, IL.

The American Cancer Society is fighting cancer on every front and standing shoulder to shoulder with cancer patients and those supporting them. Funds raised help the American Cancer Society attack cancer in dozens of ways, each of them critical to achieving a world without cancer — from developing breakthrough therapies to building supportive communities, from providing empowering resources to deploying activists to raise awareness.

Founded by Dr. Gordy Klatt in Washington in 1985, the Relay For Life movement unites communities across the globe to celebrate people who have been touched by cancer, remember loved ones lost, and take action for lifesaving change.

Symbolizing the battle waged around the clock by those facing cancer, the event can last up to 24 hours and empowers communities to take a stand against cancer.

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