WESTMONT – Cancer survivors, village officials, students and residents camped overnight Friday at Ty Warner Park, raising funds and awareness during the annual Relay For Life of Westmont celebration.
Over 100 people and 15 relay teams participated in the local Relay for Life, which is hosted by the American Cancer Society and raises money for cancer research and patients, spreads cancer awareness, celebrates the lives of survivors and remembers those who lost their lives to cancer. Together, Relay for Life of Westmont raised $19,683.95.
"It was a great event, the weather was perfect and the energy was really high," American Cancer Society Relay for Life Specialist Leslie Abrahamson said. "Relay is something that brings people together because The fight against cancer affects everyone. We all have a loved one or friend that is a survivor or is battling cancer.
"We have made a lot of progress in our fight, but it's not over until there are no more dying from cancer."
Several relay team members shared personal stories during Friday's opening ceremonies.
Westmont Village Clerk Virginia Szymski spoke about her experience at the 2013 Relay for Life of Westmont, explaining how she was initially moved to participate because her mother died of colon cancer.
Szymski then recalled an encounter at last year's event with a dermatologist who manned Relay for Life booth.
"I knew that I should make an appointment with a dermatologist because I love the sun and I admit the I love being outside in the sun," Szymski said. "About a month later, I noticed a funny growth on my nose and made an appointment.
"[A biopsy showed] that I had pre cancer on my nose and a basal cell on my leg, and I had both immediately removed. Luckily I came to relay that night or I may have just ignored it."
Some of the younger participants also shared how cancer has affected their lives. Westmont High School students Jessie and Katie Muncie, Lauren Verdera, and Heather Blaney started Relay Team Fireflies in support of their friend Emily Wheeler, who is currently battling brain cancer.
"I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to get to know Emily this year through a program at school called 'Snowball,'" Blaney said. "She remains positive, happy and grateful while battling cancer, and she is an inspiration to the rest of the high school."
"I have known Emily since I was five, and is a tremendously courageous person," Jessie Muncie said. "I feel so honored to have her as a best friend, and it means a lot to me that we could get a Relay for Life team together to support her."
Individuals who would like to make a donation to Relay for Life of Westmont can do so until Aug. 31. To make a donation, visit http://shawurl.com/179q or contact Abrahamson at 630-886-4168 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Relay for Life teams camp out overnight and take turns walking or running around a track or path at a local high school, park, or fairground. Events are up to 24 hours long, and because cancer never sleeps, each team is asked to have at least one participant on the track at all times. June is the month with the most Relay for Life events; to find one in your area, visit www.relayforlife.org