Highland News Leader

200 packed new venue for Highland’s Relay For Life

Kathy Walker hands out flowers to to cancer survivors during the Survivor Lap at Highland Relay For Life on Saturday. In front are Nancy and Russ Rieke.
Kathy Walker hands out flowers to to cancer survivors during the Survivor Lap at Highland Relay For Life on Saturday. In front are Nancy and Russ Rieke. gbentlage@bnd.com

Approximately 200 survivors, caregivers, and others were in attendance Saturday to celebrate life and the fight against cancer at Highland’s 14th Relay for Life Celebration Night.

This year’s event, held indoors at the Hope United Methodist Church, followed a different format than previous years. Upon registration, each survivor was given a purple T-shirt, a survivor pin, and a length of brightly colored paper chain with the number of links in their chain representing the number of years they have been a survivor.

The event began with a dinner for survivors, their caregivers and other guests, followed by the opening ceremony with Pastor Will VerDuin of Evangelical United Church of Christ in Highland serving as emcee. After VerDuin’s opening remarks, the presentation of colors was provided by representatives of the American Legion and Highland VFW, and the National Anthem was sung by Haylie Gombos. Highland Mayor Joe Michaelis addressed the crowd, followed by introduction of the Relay Committee by Jessica Hood, the local American Cancer Society representative. The Highland Relay Committee includes Joy Krouper, Keith and Lisa Henss, Eric Ashcroft, Emily McDowell, Kathy Walker, and Paula Redman.

Sponsors of this year’s Relay were recognized and included Presenting Sponsor, Eaton’s B-Line Business; Platinum Sponsor, HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital (also the Luminaria Sponsor); Gold Sponsors, The Korte Company, Scott Credit Union, and Highland News Leader; Silver Sponsors, Highland Rural King, Home Telephone Company, Ladies Auxiliary of Highland Knights of Columbus, Terra Properties, and TheBANK of Edwardsville; Bronze Sponsors, Bradford National Bank, Cassens & Sons, Cedar Creek Dental, Highland Lions Club, Highland Pediatrics, Homer Rusteberg CPA, Plaza Dental Care, and Spengel-Boulanger Funeral Home; and Signature Sponsors, Oberbeck Grain Company and State Farm Insurance/Blake Schrumpf.

At the end of his remarks, VerDuin recognized all survivors by the number of years as a survivor, ranging from less than one year to 40-plus years. Once all were standing, survivors and their caregiver walked the Survivor/Caregiver Lap together, and each survivor was presented with a flower.

The Luminaria Ceremony closed out the evening. The ceremony began with survivor Abby Schrage’s amazing story, which was given by her mother, Jill. Lighted luminaria bags honoring survivors and/or remembering those who have lost the battle lined the stage for this inspirational ceremony. Many were decorated with drawings, messages, and pictures of loved ones. Participants sat in silence as the names of those being honored and/or remembered were read. The evening ended with a Silent Lap by all.

This year’s Relay Committee was very happy with the event.

According to committee members, “This year’s Relay for Life Celebration Night was a success with the new venue and format. As always, the community came together as one in the fight to beat cancer. The smiles, laughs, tears, and hugs make all the team’s and committee’s efforts worthwhile. Thanks to everyone who participated in any way — survivors, speakers, sponsors, volunteers and guests, Carlos Munguia for audiovisual presentations, and Highland Hope UMC for providing the venue. With the success of Relay every year, we take steps to eliminate cancer. Thanks to all.”

Anyone wishing to donate to the Relay may still do so, as donations will be accepted through Aug. 31. For more information, or to make a donation, contact Joy Krouper at 618-977-8380 or any of the committee members.