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Local Editorials

OUR VIEW: New life breathed into Relay for Life

THE ISSUE: Relay returns to high school

OUR VIEW: Different day, shorter format a good solution

In 1997, “Titanic” was in theaters, Bill Clinton was president and Tiger Woods became the youngest golfer to win the Masters.

That year marked another significant event in La Salle County – the inaugural Relay for Life, which was originally held at Ottawa High School’s King Field. Since then, more than $3.8 million has been raised for the American Cancer Society.

Through the years, the event lasted overnight, but it recently changed formats as many volunteers are needed and an overnight event for some may seem daunting.

Last year, a shorter reception was held at the Streator Knights of Columbus Hall, while this year, the event will move to a Saturday afternoon/evening schedule back at Streator High School. Initially the event was going to return to Streator City Park, but has been moved indoors due to weather.

“It was really important for us to move this event back to a festival format,” said event co-leader Kathy Hombaker. “We had a great turnout at our survivor reception in August, but we wanted to get back to the park and provide an opportunity for everyone in the community to join us in fighting cancer. We’re excited to have some new ideas from our event leadership team to create an event that we can be really proud of. The afternoon and evening time frame will allow us to create a great experience for families, businesses and organizations.”

Activities will start at 2 p.m. and run until 10 p.m. today. Although the event will be shorter, the same experiences will take place as in the past. Visitors don’t have to be on a Relay Team to walk in honor of or in memory of a loved one. Walkers and members of the public are invited.

But what’s it all for? Yes, donations go to the American Cancer Society, but how does that directly impact residents?

Well, this past year, hundreds of residents in La Salle County have directly utilized services through the American Cancer Society.

Those services included free wigs for 39 patients, resource referrals for 100 patients, free or reduced hotels during cancer treatment for 68 patients, increased access to care for 67 patients and personal health managers for 108 patients. In addition, local residents have received 24 stays in the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge while seeking treatment. 

While Relay for Life is technically a fundraiser, our coverage throughout the event’s 20-plus years has shown us, and hopefully our readers, it’s equally about camaraderie and inspiration.

Through the various ceremonies, including the honoring of survivors and caregivers, luminaria ceremony and guest speakers, attendees are surrounded by inspiration and support, all the while being entertained with the not-so-serious activities including live music, horse-drawn wagon rides and games. Food trucks also will be a new addition.

This is a special event for our area, and it’s refreshing to see new life breathed back into Relay for Life. While the reception last summer was a decent substitute for the Relay, we’re excited to see it taking the shape of its former self.

The new day and shorter format appears to be a workable solution to decreasing attendance and increasing challenge of recruiting volunteers for an overnight event.

The stage is set for a successful Relay.

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