While a 12th anniversary is not normally something to get excited about, that milestone may prove to be monumental for the Brookfield Relay for Life, which is scheduled for Saturday, July 14 at Jaycee-Ehlert Park.
That’s because this year the event could reach the $1 million mark in donations since it began back in 2001. As of last week, the Brookfield Relay for Life was just $25,000 short of its goal.
“It’s a very achievable goal for this community,” said Mary Marshall, who works in the American Cancer Society’s Riverside office as an income development representative.
The Relay for Life is a fundraising program for the American Cancer Society. Brookfield is one of some 5,000 communities that host the event annually nationwide. Marshall said she expects about 200 to 250 people to participate in the Brookfield event.
For the first time this year, the Brookfield Relay for Life will be a primarily daytime event. Previously, the local event was an overnight event that started at dusk and continued through to the morning hours.
“We’re just looking to get more families involved,” said Marshall. “We’re hoping people will come throughout the day and participate in the event.”
On July 14, the event will kick off officially at 11 a.m. with a survivors’ lap and end at 11 p.m., following a luminaria ceremony, where the relay track is lined with illuminated bags dedicated to those fighting cancer or who have succumbed to it.
While some 20 teams comprising about 120 people have been raising funds in the months leading up to the event, the American Cancer Society and the teams themselves will be collecting money during the event.
The event came to Brookfield in 2001, when the American Cancer Society approached then-Brookfield Recreation Department Director Cathy Colgrass Edwards about starting a Brookfield-Riverside event.
Edwards and Michael Garvey, now a village trustee and village president, respectively, were the first co-chairs of the event. That first year, the event raised more than $100,000, helped in part by a $10,000 donation from former Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan, who is a cancer survivor and whose son was a friend of Garvey’s. For Garvey, the event has taken on personal meaning. In 2006, he was diagnosed with cancer and walked in the event subsequently as a cancer survivor.
“There’s a lot of focus on the money that’s raised, but I have always received a lot of comfort from the event,” Garvey said. “It’s a great comfort to people who are battling cancer and who have overcome it.”
For Edwards, the highlight of the event each year is the luminaria ceremony, which this year will start at 10 p.m. Typically, participants walk the track in silence and the names of those who have battled the disease are read aloud during the ceremony.
“The luminaria announcements are just so touching,” Edwards said. “You spend time listening to the names and realizing how many people have been affected by cancer. There’s no one that’s been untouched by it.”