West Cook Relay For Life raises $43,000 in Burr Ridge

Jane Michaels
jmichaels@pioneerlocal.com | @janemichaels22
Aug. 12 9:30 a.m.

After a hiatus of several years, the West Cook Relay for Life returned Aug. 8 and 9 to Burr Ridge with an array of overnight fundraising activities to fight cancer.

“The weather was gorgeous, and we had more than 200 people in attendance, which was more than we thought with this kind of brand new venture,” said Katherine Toraason, a relay organizer with the American Cancer Society.

About 70 participants and 13 teams signed raised a total of $43,000 for research and programs to support cancer patients and their families.

Activities for the evening included a ceremony honoring survivors and a balloon release celebrating those who lost their battle with cancer, Toraason said, as well as a luminaria display with candles recognizing all those touched by the disease.

There were food vendors, a zumba class, movie and a cake walk with baked goods donated by Mariano’s. A couple also sang, and students from Lyons Township High School provided music and DJ expertise.

More than a decade ago, the West Cook Relay had been a major fundraising event, with a huge number of participants, so the three communities split up to hold their own events, Toraason said. As participation dipped, it was suggested to combine the groups again.

Toraason said she was encouraged by the turnout, enthusiasm and results, even though she had only begun coordinating the effort in February. The Pleasant Dale Park District’s recreation center and grounds were a perfect venue for the event, she said.

“For next year, we’ll be recruiting from areas all around Burr Ridge,” she said. “Hopefully, we’ll get all the surrounding towns involved.”

Among the top contributors were students from Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park, who raised $10,000, and fifth- through eighth-graders at Pleasantdale Middle School in Burr Ridge, who raised $11,405.

“This is our eighth year doing it at the school, and this was the most money we’ve ever raised,” said Jennifer Carnes, a science teacher at Pleasantdale.

Carnes said she’s gotten her students involved in the relay effort since 2006 to support her mom, a two-time cancer survivor. Donations other years went to a relay effort in the Aurora area. This year’s campaign began in the spring with students pursuing a variety of efforts.

“Cancer hits so close to home, that’s why many of the kids walk around their neighborhood for donations, or bake and sell cookies,” she said. “One kid gave his birthday money. They also were raking leaves, washing cars and making bracelets.”

Students held a mini-relay at the end of school, their teacher said.

“They made signs and homemade T-shirts and buttons,” Carnes said. They brought their families and said they were walking for their grandma or their dog. Every kind of cancer has touched their lives.”

Carnes said she is excited about the possibilities for the West Cook Relay for next year, perhaps making it a back-to-school event.

Toraason said organizing efforts for 2015 relays begin Sept. 1, and several volunteers have stepped forward to lead the West Cook event.

For more information, visit www.relayforlife.org/westcookil, or contact Toraason at katherine.toraason@cancer.org or 312-960-2311.

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