Think back to 1999. The location is at the Dixon High School track. It’s packed. Tents all around the field, extending past the bandshell. Music is flowing along with excitement, games, food, laughter – and one purpose. Everyone joined together for one night as a united team for one common goal.
Were you there? This was the very first Relay for Life event held in Lee County.
For the 2013 event, the Relay for Life committee wanted new and exciting things for the event in hopes of bringing back that old spark. We all welcomed our guest speakers, Dave Schreiner, KSB CEO and president, and our special guest speaker, Marcie Withers, a cancer survivor.
During the opening ceremony, we give thanks to the special time the caregivers give to their loved ones by driving them to their appointments, picking up their groceries, or just being there.
We thought it was important to get the kids in the community involved; we had performances from Crystal Horton’s Open Sesame class. This group of 5- and 6-year-olds accompanied Capt. Mike Wilcox in leading the Pledge of Alliance, and accompanied Matt Kraft in American Sign Language while he sang the National Anthem.
Capt. Wilcox summed up 2013’s event’s emotions, “The Relay needs to be experienced.” The Color Guard and Honor Guard presented flags, and the survivor lap was led by Michelle Dewey’s DHS cheerleaders.
In the spirit of getting the wee ones involved, we had a Li'l Miss and Mr. Relay Pageant. It was a hit. Kady McDonald, Miss Illinois Junior Teen Cover Girl, was our host, taking the reins with her grandmother, Linda. Guest judges for the pageant included Hollie Oprian (Weeds), Sheriff John Varga, and Tony Brown (Brown Trucking).
At sundown, the track is lined with “in memory of” or “in honor of” luminary bags. This is the most anticipated part of the evening. Songs are quietly played. Everyone stands silently as, one by one, each name is read; the name of someone who is fighting, of someone who has fought their battle and either won, or lost.
When asked, Sheriff Varga said his first thought when Linda and Kady McDonald asked him to be a guest judge for Relay was: “Wow. What a good night to help show support to the people in the county. It is always good for leaders to show support, to show they will try to do what they can to help. It’s just a bonus when it is support for a great cause like Relay for Life.”
I encourage you to join us at meetings (held in the DHS Cafeteria) on the first Monday of every month, and at the event this year on June 6. Team captain and participant meetings are from 6 to 7 p.m. If you are interested in joining our committee, meetings are from 5 to 6 p.m.
Note to readers: Amber Forster is the Lee County Relay for Life chairwoman and is a 15-year participant.