Students support Relay for Life
January 25, 2013 5:00PM
Minooka High School students participate in the mini Relay for Life in the “pink” hall designated for breast cancer. | photo courtesy of Andrew Langlois, event photographer
Updated: March 1, 2013 6:29AM
When the Minooka High School National Honor Society sets out to accomplish something, it goes all out.
Whether it’s collecting infant and children’s clothing during the “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” drive to benefit Lamb’s Fold Shelter in Joliet or addressing illiteracy in America by reading to elementary school students in their Rock and Read program, NHS students use their leadership skills to reach out to the community in a big way.
Such was the case during the NHS’s first mini Relay for Life on Jan. 20 to raise awareness and funds and educate the public about the many types of cancer people battle every day.
At the highest point, more than 200 people participated in the event, said Donna Engel, NHS adviser and instructional leader of science and music.
NHS students decorated the hallways of Central campus, with each one representing a type of cancer.
For instance, the white hallway represented lung cancer, yellow for bone cancer and pink for breast cancer.
Attached to the walls was information about the type of cancer, symptoms and treatments. But there were also words of hope written on those walls.
During the 12-hour event, students, staff and community members, representing cancer survivors, supporters and loved ones, walked the halls of the school and participated in fun relay events to raise money.
Two of Minooka High’s own students, cancer survivors themselves, participated. Minooka High science teacher Sam Pavelka, who is battling Ewings Sarcoma, was there as well.
The Relay for Life is not just a walk to raise funds, said Engel, it’s to educate the public, to celebrate the survivors and to remember those who have passed on.
Each relay event got participants to enjoy themselves and laugh in the face of cancer. Like piñatas to “take a strike at cancer,” decorating cars and wearing them in a relay in support of the American Cancer Society’s program that provides transportation to treatment, and wrestling to deflate huge blow-up alligators while blindfolded (I’m not sure the significance of the alligators, but it sounds like great fun).
Since Pavelka is a huge fan of the Chicago White Sox and Cubs Crosstown Classic, a hallway dedicated to him was decorated with bases and participants had to answer baseball trivia. They won stickers to put on the wall in support of their favorite team.
One entire lap around the school, a quarter mile, was a birthday lap to celebrate survivors.
All the money raised during the mini Relay for Life, nearly $13,000, will be pooled with Grundy County’s full Relay for Life event June 1 in Morris. Some of the money raised will stay right in Grundy County, Engel said. The rest goes to the American Cancer’s Society’s fight to end cancer and support those who still battle it.
A Relay for Life always has two important components. The first is the survivors’ walk in which cancer survivors take the first lap to celebrate their victory over cancer while cheered on by their supporters.
The other is the luminaria ceremony, held at the end in memory of those who have been lost to the disease.
When the survivors took that first lap at Minooka High, wearing T-shirts that read “I am Hope,” they were met with applause and cheers as other participants lined the hallways cheering them on.
It was one of those moments that touches your heart and takes your breath away, Engel said.
During the luminaria ceremony, held in the cafetorium, each person held a glow stick. One by one 12 senior NHS members read a poem, one for each month of the year and what it means to lose someone you love to cancer. Following a poem, the glow stick was lit and dropped into one of many bags lining the steps to the stage.
As the names of those lost were read, supporters and survivors walk to the bags, lighted their own sticks and dropped them into the bags. Those same names will be read off at the Grundy County event in June.
Engel, who lost several family members to cancers, could only describe the events as” the most touching and moving” thing ever.
Reach Kris Stadalsky at firstname.lastname@example.org.