‘The support and excitement continue to be
Music, food, games and entertainment for a great cause are all elements of the Rockford Relay for Life 24-hour event, which kicks off at the North Rockford Middle School’s track field this Friday, May 17 at 3:00 p.m. The Rockford Fire Department and Rockford Public Safety officers take the first lap, leading the way for an amazing 24 hours. Visitors to Relay are invited to take a lap around the track, cheer on 24 hour walkers, play games and buy tasty treats of hot food or snack items or just stroll the grounds to see the creative booths prepared by this year’s teams.
This is the eleventh year for Relay in Rockford and it is the largest, most successful Relay for a community the size of Rockford. Raising money for cancer, showing support for cancer survivors and remembering those lost motivate teams—this year 75 teams and 528 individuals—to camp out for the night and take part in the many activities that take place from the opening ceremony at 3 p.m. Friday until the clean-up after closing ceremonies at 3 p.m. Saturday.
“After eleven years the support and excitement the community has for Relay continues to be inspirationally overwhelming,” said long-time coordinator Carol Delp. She has long credited the success of Relay nationwide as an American Cancer Society fundraiser to the deep toll the disease has had on our country. It would be a surprise to find any individual who does not know a loved one affected by cancer and the Relay is a chance to make a difference in finding a cure.
This year’s Relay theme is Dance Party, so those who take the time to attend will find plenty of bling and disco in the decorations. Fun fundraisers include a cakewalk at 4 p.m., opening ceremonies at 6 p.m., the ever popular Miss Relay contest as one male per team appears dressed up as a disco diva. Pick your favorite, and every dollar raised results in the winner with the highest tally. At 9 p.m. one of the most emotional events takes place during the luminaria lap where those lost to cancer are remembered during a silent lap around the track. The evening’s activities continue with a 10:30 outdoor movie.
This year there will be improvements to the sound system and placement of speakers to minimize disruption to neighbors of Relay. “We are aware that most of Rockford loves and supports Relay, people don’t always want to be reminded of it at 3 in the morning,” said Delp. She said the changes in the speakers—aiming them inward and with care for neighbors—are designed keep the night’s activities within the grounds of Relay.
However, Delp said the changes have to be a happy medium as the people who choose to walk the entire 24 hours of Relay need the motivation to keep going and to stay awake. At midnight participants and visitors will enjoy a pizza party, while watching a giant screen movie brought to Relay by Reel Air Cinemas. At 1 a.m. play Dance Bingo with a card from the DJ booth. The 3 a.m. halftime noise-makers will celebrate the middle hour of the event. At 4 a.m. there will be a Look Good, Feel Better egg relay race and at 5 a.m. those either still awake or up early can play ticket trivia.
The morning hours of Relay will continue with a hula hoop contest, zumba, a clean up contest with the winner winning breakfast and a polyp pop for colon cancer contest. At 10 a.m. is the Survivor Reception and at noon is the Survivor Lap. According to Hannah Smoker, American Cancer Society Relay organizer, lining the track with people recognizing our survivors is a crucial element of the event.
“Highlighting and recognizing our survivors is the most important part of Relay,” she stated. This year the various teams, who have been fundraising since last year’s Relay, have already raised over $100,000 for the American Cancer Society’s efforts to eliminate cancer. Rockford’s Relay last year, the tenth annual event, put the grand total towards ending cancer at just under $3.2 million. “After this year’s Relay we hope to be at $3.5 million,” said Smoker.
Each year Relay brings a reminder of the importance of working to eliminate cancer, a celebration of those who have beaten cancer and a time to remember those who did not. Whether stopping in for a half hour to shop for items for sale at survivor booths, to watch the first lap or to visit both days or even stay all 24 hours, this event is one that benefits many.
“The journey to end cancer starts with a single step,” said Smoker. “The American Cancer Society invites you to take that step with us by joining the global Relay For Life movement. When you walk to end cancer at a Relay event, it’s your opportunity to not only honor cancer survivors and remember loved ones lost, but also to raise awareness about what we can do to stay well from cancer and raise money to help fuel the world’s largest walk to end cancer.”