Champaign County kicks off relay for life

By Stephanie Taylor

The American Cancer Society is holding the first event towards celebrating Champaign County’s 2006 Relay for Life. The event will be held Tuesday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Galleria Building, 112 W. Church St., in downtown Champaign.

The “kickoff” will get participants prepared and encouraged for the relay on May 20 and 21 at Centennial High School, 913 S. Crescent Drive.

Amy Downing, senior in LAS, is co-president of the group Colleges Against Cancer and will be a guest speaker at the event. She will speak about dealing with cancer within her family.

“I’m speaking because I am a volunteer of the American Cancer Society,” Downing said. “I enjoy sharing my story and sharing hope.”

Downing said she hopes her story is inspirational for the people of Champaign County and thinks the story “hits home for everybody.”

Other events include a mock luminaria ceremony, said Jason McClelland, income development representative at the American Cancer Society.

A luminaria is a white bag with a candle inside it. On the bag, the donator writes a message honoring a loved one. At the relay in May, the luminarias will be lit around the high school’s track and people will able to walk a lap honoring all of the cancer victims.

The American Cancer Society puts together the mock luminaria ceremony in order to give participants an idea of what goes on at the event.

“People can order a luminaria at the kickoff to honor someone they know that was either lost or has survived cancer,” Lauren Giovagnoli, income development manager at the American Cancer Society, said.

McClelland also said that people who want to participate in the relay can register their teams at the event.

“The teams can be anywhere from 15 to 20 people,” McClelland said. “Last year, we had a total of 126 teams and we’re hoping to raise that number,” he said.

Teams consist of people representing businesses, friends, families, churches and more.

“At the kickoff event, there will be a discount registration price of $75 per team instead of the regular $125,” McClelland said.

Last year, the Champaign County Relay for Life was recognized nationally with an All American Relay Award for raising $263,000.

The money raised funds services provided by the American Cancer Society such as research, education, advocacy and patient services, McClelland said.

Giovagnoli, said the event should be fun for the public.

“It’s a good way to get everyone excited and get more people aware,” she said. “It’s a time for the public to come out and learn more about the relay.”

In the past, about 50 to 75 people have attended the event. Giovagnoli said she hopes more will attend this year because of great entertainment and a vibrant theme.

The theme of this year’s event is “Carnival of Hope,” McClelland said.

There will be a cotton candy maker, a popcorn machine, a ringmaster and a clown to help create the carnival-like atmosphere. The Galleria building has also been elaborately decorated and now resembles a carnival stage, he said.

WLRW-FM, The Mix 94.5, is the honorary emcee of the event and will be leading games and giving out prizes to participants.

Adam Schwartz, senior in ACES, is the co-president of Colleges Against Cancer. He said he believes this event is important when it comes to dealing with cancer.

“An event like this truly shows that people care about those affected by cancer,” Schwartz said. “Everyone is going through it together … either they are currently or will be touched by cancer and they are there to support each other.”

To find out more information on the Champaign County’s Relay for Life visit www.cancer.org or call (217) 356-9076.