Rockford Relay For Life celebrates 10 years


U.S. servicemen and Rockford firefighters led the first lap of last year's Relay for Life event.

Relay For Life of Rockford will be celebrating their 10-year anniversary next weekend, from 3 p.m. Friday, May 18, to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 19, with this year’s theme being “Color a Cure.”

We can’t believe that it has been 10 years since that small group of new, inexperienced committee members set up the track at North Rockford Middle School, hoping someone would show up for the first annual Relay For Life of Rockford, 2003. Not only were we concerned that many wouldn’t come to this largely unknown event, but we also didn’t know how many teams would participate or whether we could raise much money for the American Cancer Society (ACS). None of us got much sleep that Thursday night; we pulled out our camping gear, packed our bags and laid out our most comfortable shoes for the next 40 hours of the “unknown.”

At that time, most first-year Relays had a couple hundred people attend, approximately 10 teams participate, and usually raised around $15,000. We should have known better. This is Rockford, where we often supersede expectations. This quaint, small town blew away the national competition and amazed the ACS with its record-breaking crowds, 40 teams and over $140,000 raised—all in our first attempt at a Relay. You know what the signs say upon entering our city limits: “Welcome to Rockford. Discover the Charm.” Maybe the signs should read, “Welcome to Rockford. Discover the Energy!” or maybe, “Hold On To Your Hats!” Seriously, this community never ceases to amaze and inspire me.

In 2011, we had over 80 teams participate (16 teams have been with us since our first year), welcomed over 10,000 people in just 24 hours, honored over 300 survivors, and with 2011’s $340,000, we have raised over $2.8 million for the ACS. Our top team, Terminatin’ Cancer, raised almost $24,000. We had a 10-year-old raise over $1,000 on his own. Not bad results, especially during this tough economic period.

Rockford’s statistics are impressive, yet we are not done. As long as people continue to hear the words, “You have cancer,” we must continue our fight and strive to meet our own, self-imposed, Rockford goals. If we meet our goal for 2012, it will put us at over 3.2 million. So what can you do to help us keep the Rockford momentum? We’d like to:

•            celebrate more survivors. Survivor Ceremony is from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

•            sell more luminaries at $10 each. Honor those you know who have battled cancer by lighting a personalized luminaria during the ceremony at 9 p.m. on Friday.

•            find more sponsors. Ask your employers, churches, civic groups, favorite retailers, friends or that family member with the generous heart to donate money in honor of a survivor, in memory of someone, or just because it’s a good thing to do. Every dollar makes a difference.

•            get more people to the event. Your purchases on the track go to the ACS. There is something for everyone:  food, games, auctions, activities and contests. Come hungry, with the entire family, and bring your wallets!

•            have more walkers on the track. Get some exercise, meet new people and pledge dollars to the ACS by walking, running or strolling the track for an hour.

•            have more people join a team. Check with your school or any group with whom you are associated. Or just pick a team that you admire or want to support. Odds are, you already know someone who is on a team that is looking for more participants. Rockford Public Schools, City of Rockford, Wolverine World Wide or Independent Bank—there are over 80 teams to pick from.

•            learn your cancer colors. Most know that pink is the color which represents breast cancer. Did you know that blue is prostate cancer and brown is colorectal cancer? The more you learn about cancer, its symptoms and ways to decrease your chances of developing cancer, the healthier our community will become.

Head down to North Rockford Middle School between 3 p.m. Friday, May 18, and 3 p.m. Saturday, May 19, and see what all the fuss is about. Help us celebrate survivors, improve the health of our community through advocacy, and raise money to find a cure. For more information, go to or contact Hannah Smoker, ACS representative, at (616) 337-7474.

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