Monday, July 11, 2011

Relay Reflections

Relay For Life.

It's an amazing event.

At least it was this year anyways :)

Last year we did our first one, it was in Yorkville. The weather for that one was bad, a wicked storm came through as people had set up, and it blew down a bunch of stuff. The event was moved into a small gym and another small room for everyone to 'camp'. It seemed very uncoordinated, and like they had no plan for rain problems so no one knew what to do, they just crammed us into that area. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't horrible, the even still had meaning, and was interesting, it just seemed not well planned.

I wanted to do the event again.

So I did.

This year 2 different ones!

The first was again the Yorkville one. But we did it differently, as I explained in a post after the event. Our money got turned in, but we didn't stay, in fear of being crowded into the small area again. We came to Dan & Cindy's and had our own little relay at their place. It was nice this way, we raised money for the ACS, and walked, and honored those special to us that passed away from cancer and for those we know still suffering. We enjoyed time together as a team, and shared memories.

The second Relay for me this year was here in Mendota, where we live. When we heard there was going to be one out here Kelsey and I decided we wanted to do it, and set up a team for her grandfather who has lung cancer. We signed up months ago at the meeting. We got a few members for our team and came up with a cool team name "Grandpa's Groupies". Since it was for Kelsey's grandpa, she was the team captain and I assisted her.

We came up with some good fundraising ideas, but unfortunately most didn't come to fruition because we couldn't get plans made right, volunteers, or money to do them...but that didn't stop us from participating. Kels and I talked about the Relay often. We made team t-shirts last week, which was time consuming, but worth it to have some unique shirts. We put letters on the shirts to spell out what we wanted, then sprayed bleach over them to make it look cool. Then after they were washed, on the sleeves we wrote on one "In Support of" and listed those we know that are currently battling cancer, and on the other sleeve we wrote "In Memory Of" for those we know that have passed away from it already. Unfortunately for us, our In Memory Of side had a longer list of people :( Pretty sad isn't it? That we know more that have died from cancer then we know living with it? UGH. This is the reason we do the walk, to help raise money and hopefully find a CURE.

Kelsey & I were anxious for this walk, we just knew it was going to be a good time. We arrived at the location at about 3 to set up our tent. WOW it was HOT out, and our site had NO shade. The sweating started, I sweated in places I didn't know could sweat LOL. We put our tent up to the back of the site, hoping our other team members would set theirs up closer to the front to fill up the space. Only one team member ended up setting up a tent, so we had lots of extra room. This is what our site looked like, there were a few trees, but along the very back so they didn't do any good for shade, and there was a tiny one that was more like a bush.

Our team arrived, some later than others, but at least they made it! Kelsey's grandfather was able to make it thankfully. He was driven up to our campsite on a Gator, and had a wheel chair for use too. We all put on our Grandpa's Groupies shirts, and headed down to the track for opening ceremonies.

Here is some of our team. Terry, Kelsey's grandpa is the guy in the wheelchair, in the purple survivor shirt. The others in the picture are Ed (Kelsey's uncle), Lindsey in the red hat (Kelsey's dad), Kathy (Kelsey's aunt), Kelsey, and Chlovena (Kelsey's grandma).

We listened to a cancer survivor give a speech, and had some other opening ceremony stuff, and then the survivor lap began. For those of you that have never been to one of these, this is a very touching scene. The survivors have on their purple shirts, and they line up and take a lap around the track and everyone claps and cheers them on, celebrating their life and their fight and courage for battling cancer. I always get teary watching this.

That is Terry on his survivor lap with Chlovena by his side, and Lindsey (his son) pushing him around the track it was to hard for Chlovena to push the wheelchair on the grass.

Here are Kelsey, and her aunt and uncle watching the survivor lap.

After the survivor lap was the caregiver lap to honor those that help those with cancer daily. They deserve special recognition too for all they do.

The track then opened up for all the teams to start walking! There was a great turn out! Here are a few of the walkers.

These pictures touch me of some of our team...
Son & Daughter taking care of their dad:

Brother & Sister sharing a moment together on the track:

A grandmother/granddaughter moment:


The Relay was held near the Civic Center in town, where they have a lot of wedding receptions. There was a bride and groom that decided to take a break from their reception, and bring their bridal party along with and take a lap around the track too! The brides grandmother is battling cancer. It was very cool.


There were many events going on during the evening. Bands playing, contests, fun stuff.

Another highlight of the evening is the luminairia (sp?) bags. There were SO MANY! They lined the track and lit the way. There were speeches during this time, and names showing on the screen of those dealing with cancer one way or another.

Even Bill & Bree walked the track that night...

Before I go any further, I need to give a shout out to Kelsey. I'm so very proud of her. She tried to walk the whole event from start to finish! She did really good. She started once the teams were allowed to walk I think it was around 6:40ish, and walked until 4 a.m. with only a potty break and a quick break to go get a water from the campsite. She was in so much pain, her feet hurt, and her hips hurt but she kept walking. Finally at 4 she couldn't take the pain anymore and came to the campsite to rest for about an hour or so, then went to finish up. She did awesome!

I stayed up the whole night too, and did a lot of walking, but not as much as Kelsey. The whole night was great, and there were a lot of events going on to keep people busy and awake. When morning arrived they had everyone line up in the letters spelling out HOPE, and raise their hands, then they had a plane fly over and take pictures. I can't wait to see that.

The closing ceremony consisted of awards for teams and money raised etc. Kels & our team got a award for amazing youth leadership.

The amazing ending was when they announced the totals of the money raised. First let me tell you that last year, they raised 15,000 I believe she said, with 10 teams. They set a goal for this year of 35,000. This year they had 40 teams, and they exceeded their goal by a LOT! The total raised was $154,000!! Isn't that awesome?!

We all had a great time and will do it again next year! I'm sure I left out some details, but thats because I'm STILL tired and I can't think straight LOL. I have a ton more of pics, you can see them here on my FLICKR album.

I think the city of Mendota hosted a great Relay For Life. The participants did awesome too. But, it couldn't be done without the hard work of the ACS crew, and I think most of all a guy named Mitch Landgraf. He was great! He helped put it all together and made the event go smoothly I think. Well done Mitch! (He happens to be Kelsey's counselor at school).

The only changes I can think of to make it even better would be to have it so the parking is blocked off from the campsite area. We had a ton of people just drive through our camp! We were laying on a blanket on the ground snacking and nearly got run over. That was not cool.

I also think maybe a tent set up with things for little kids, like craft things, story time (the story time there was was hard to find lol we found it when it was nearly done), and maybe a bouncehouse or something for the little kids.

I'm glad I decided to do a second Relay this year, and I was proud being a part of it. Well done Mendota.


Dazee Dreamer said...

That is so cool. I know how hard you worked on it. You are a wonderful woman.

Joanna said...

Wow - you guys are totally amazing!!

I'm so proud of Kelsey - and all of you for doing such an awesome thing for an awesome cause.

For Heavens Sake! said...

That was a great report of the relay and I am so proud of Kelsey and you too! Incredible job!

Amanda said...

So proud of you. This post made me cry!!

Mitch Landgraf said...

What a great blog about our Relay!! Thank you! Grandpa's Groupies are a great team with true Relay spirit, and personally and professionally I just think the world of Kelsey. One of the most unassuming, kind, and honest students I have ever served. Great pix!! Bless you for being such an important part of Relay For Life of Upper Illinois Valley, and for honoring us with Terry's presence and all of you caregivers / Groupies! See ya in 2012!!!

- Mitch Landgraf (Event Chair)