Relay for Life supporters put on their dancing shoes this year instead of pitching tents to raise money and awareness in the fight against cancer at Lyons Township High School.
Cosponsors Tim Spitsberg and Brittany Sidoti and students decided to try a new venue April 25 to boost enthusiasm and participation, which had declined. The Relay for Life began 11 years ago as an overnight walk and camp out at Bennett Field in Western Springs and has raised more than $1 million.
Students formed teams, as in the overnight walking effort, or went solo on the dancer floor at the south campus fieldhouse in Western Springs. Pledges totaled about $20,000, Spitsberg said, despite fewer students than expected at the marathon.
Several factors combined to lower participation. April 25 had been scheduled as a day off for students, but classes were held instead to make up for a day canceled due to severe winter weather. As a result, sports teams held practices after school at the same time as the dance marathon, Spitsberg said.
Organizers also hadn’t realized a marching band trip already had been scheduled the same day for musicians to march in the Disney World parade in Florida.
And the weather was beautiful, so only about 50 of the 75 students who registered online attended, Spitsberg said.
Organizers retained the traditional luminaria observance to honor loved ones who had lost a battle with cancer, as well as survivors. Paper bags lit by glow sticks lined a stage, as participants walked a lap around the fieldhouse in silence.
“One of the neat things about our kids is their willingness to put aside their interests and the momentary excitement and remember the deeper purpose why they’re there,” Spitsberg said. “We raised awareness that the fight against cancer isn’t over, and we raised money for that fight.”
Whether the dance marathon will continue or the event returns to the overnight walk is uncertain. Students and the cosponsors plan to decide by June 2.
“We’ll be talking to the kids who came, others involved and the student council about what should be done next year,” Spitsberg said. “Most of all we want kids to be excited about it.”