It started out as merely wishful thinking on a cold day in January, 2016…
I had been searching online for a Relay for Life event for McDonough County, but was having little luck.
I found the contact information for the American Cancer Society office in Peoria, IL and sent a message, asking about a Macomb, IL Relay for Life event.
The response I received was disheartening. Due to a lack of participation over the years, the Relay for Life event for Macomb had been cancelled. The nearest Relay event for McDonough County residents would be 40+ minutes away come spring and summer-time.
I sure wasn’t trying to be defiant with my reply, but I simply told Peoria that I was interested in conducting my own cancer awareness event for Macomb, whether they were willing to assist or not.
I ended up speaking with one of the Peoria ACS staff a few days later; he wanted to see “how serious I was.”
By the end of our conversation, he was more than willing to speak with his boss and see if the American Cancer Society would be interested in helping with the event.
Perhaps I got a little bit brave at this point – I had a 3 month-old, I had just finished chemo in December and I was scheduled to go back to work full-time in one month. But this was a very important cause to me and I wasn’t going to take it lightly.
I returned to work in February and my plan to organize this event was pushed to the side a bit, due to other duties I had. However, in March, things came to a screeching halt when we discovered that I had relapsed – a mere 3 months after finishing treatment for a recurrence.
As we put together a treatment plan to treat this relapse, I knew, now more than ever, that this event had to happen. I needed to get serious about planning it.
Once I fell into a new treatment routine, I started focusing on planning this event.
I had received word that the American Cancer Society office out of Peoria would help in whatever way they could; providing resources, marketing materials, etc.
This was a fabulous thing!
But one thing I knew was that I could not plan an event like this (at the magnitude that I was imagining) all by myself. I needed assistance.
In May, I held the first meeting to recruit volunteers for a planning committee. There were about 8 people at the first meeting and I hoped that a few of them would choose to stick around to help plan this event.
And they did!!
We held meetings once a month and each meeting seemed to grow by a person or two.
By the fall, we had several students from Western Illinois University attending our meetings because word of mouth had been so strong about this event.
Our date was set for October 1, 2016. From May to October is not a lot of time to plan, but there were hard workers on our planning committee and I never doubted our ability to pull it off.
The Macomb Park District became heavily involved, bringing in Western students from the RPTA program.
We secured a food vendor, several entertainment acts, stage and sound crew, security and loads of volunteers for various tasks. This was really going to happen – and we had something to be incredibly proud of!
We battled rain on and off throughout the day, but that didn’t stop people from pulling into Veterans Park to see what our event was about. They stayed for the music, played some games and walked the track to show their dedication to “never stopping until there is a cure.”
Our Survivors Ceremony was incredibly inspirational, seeing survivors lock hands with each other as they took the initial lap around the track.
The Caregivers Lap reflected so much love between husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and children.
The Luminaria Ceremony occurred at dusk and was truly an experience that took your breath away – walking the track in silence as you viewed each bag that bore the name of someone’s loved one who had fought against this disease.
The event as a whole is difficult to describe without being there in person. Hope, inspiration, strength, love – all of those things were experienced at the first Festival of L.I.F.E. and we hope to elicit those same feelings this year.
The total amount raised for our first Festival of L.I.F.E. was $23,742.67. Not a bad little total for the first year!!
With that amount, we were able to do the following:
– provide 240 hours of toll-free call access to the National Cancer Information Center
– provide transportation to and from treatment for 100 cancer patients
– provide cancer patients and their caregivers with 100 nights of free lodging at the Hope Lodge
– provide 20 women the chance to attend a Look Good Feel Better program
– provide free wigs to 100 cancer patients
– provide 1 person the opportunity to enroll in an ACS-funded clinical trial
We can do it again this year, and we’d love for YOU to be a part of it! Signing up is so easy – just click here! You can start your own team, join an existing team, or register as an individual participant. Even if you cannot physically be at the Festival of L.I.F.E. on October 7th, you can still donate, still be part of a team, still share in the joy of knowing you are helping someone fight back against cancer!
You may also purchase Luminaria bags by clicking here. These illuminated bags light up the track at nightfall and a silent lap is taken to remember those whom we have lost to cancer and celebrate those who are still with us.
We would also love your sponsorship!
If you know of a business that would like to sponsor our 2017 event, they are welcome to contact me!