Look inside the new Leaps of Love office
Looking for something fun to do while contributing to a worthy cause?
Then head to Highland Speedway on Saturday for the Leaps of Love Night at the Races. Leaps of Love is a Highland-based organization that embraces families affected by childhood brain tumors and late-effects of childhood cancer.
And this event — which started six years ago — invites affected families to spend the day interacting with the racers at Highland Speedway and the community and just have fun.
“This is our annual pair up with Highland Speedway … it’s a fun-filled day with the drivers bringing up their cars for a scavenger hunt and autographs,” said Traci Riechmann, Leaps of Love president. “This is an entire community event people have been getting involved in. This way they get to meet some of the families Leaps of Love deals with and to know what we’re about and who we serve.
“All this is provided by Highland Speedway and all the wonderful supporters of Leaps of Love.”
The families arrive around 2 p.m. for a meet and greet session with the drivers that lasts until approximately 3 p.m. followed by different activities and dinner prior to the races. For the public, grandstands open at 5:30 p.m., with races starting at 6:45 p.m. and lasting until 10 or 10:30. Cost is $12 general admission, with all proceeds benefiting Leaps of Love.
“One of my families told me this is kind of a family reunion for them. Some of them are out of treatment, and this is the only time they get to meet up with families they met at the hospital years ago,” Riechmann said. “Also, it’s a good time for the older kids out of treatment to meet new ones currently in treatment. It’s a nice little get together for them now that they don’t see each other on a regular basis at the hospital.”
As noted, the event agenda includes a scavenger hunt. A picture is taken of something unique to a particular driver’s car, and then the families have to figure out which car it belongs to.
“That way, they have to actually go to the driver and talk to them … we started this to basically get the families to have to interact with the drivers,” Riechmann said. “It’s also a way for the drivers to brag about their cars to the families. The families also bring poster board … once they meet a driver, they make a poster so when the drivers are out there racing, the kids can be cheering them on showing their poster.”
The children also can enjoy a carnival, which includes a bounce house, a frog pond (similar to typical duck ponds … the Leaps of Love symbol is a frog), bean bag tosses, etc.
“These are just fun little games everyone can play with the other families and get to know each other,” Riechmann said.
Then, there’s the kids frog races for ages 3-16. Riechmann said she has a group of men who gather bullfrogs, and they are categorized into different age groups. Whoever wins the frog races before dinner goes on the track during intermission, and then the winners of the different age groups do more live races in front of the audience.
“During that event some of the kids don’t like to touch frogs, so we pair them up with some of the volunteers,” Riechmann said. “It’s a good way for the community to follow the kids … they pair up with kids who don’t want to touch the frogs to push them across the finish line so everybody’s a winner throughout the day.”
The event also features an adult leapfrog competition with four people per team. Participants must be 18+ to enter. Only 10 teams are accepted.
“Whoever wins that, one of the drivers sponsors $200,” Riechmann said.
To wrap up, on Sunday, Core Elite Tumble & Cheer opens their doors for some tumbling and games for the families followed by a pizza party.
Additionally, this year includes the Nicci Egbert Memorial Race.
“Nicci was a big supporter of Leaps of Love at Highland Speedway,” Riechmann said. “She started getting involved with Leaps of Love and helped me with races for two-three years before she passed away (May 9, 2017).
Overall, Riechmann hopes attendees enjoy the night while also familiarizing themselves with Leaps of Love and its purpose.
“We’re just trying to get as many people in the community aware of Leaps of Love and what we do,” she said. “Our biggest goal is to spread awareness of childhood cancer. The more I can get the community involved and to see these kids touches your heartstrings more. Our children are the future.”
People interested in donating either specifically to this event and/or in general to Leaps of Love can visit www.leapsoflove.org or https://www.facebook.com/LeapsOfLove/ or call Riechmann at 618-410-7212.
According to the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation and Riechmann, only 4 percent of federal government cancer research funding goes to study pediatric cancer, so all contributions are appreciated.
“Any kind of donation — monetary or things for the family — is welcome and helps,” she said.
About Leaps of Love
According to the Leaps of Love website, “With the growing number of children diagnosed every day, our goal is to help these families engage together and give them hope, strength and encouragement to endure the challenges everyone in the family faces. Family retreats, social events, outings, workshops and more can help give these families the opportunity to strengthen their lives with the support, wisdom and encouragement of others who have experienced similar scenarios to theirs.”
Moreover, Leaps of Love assists childhood cancer families with areas of focus to include brain tumors and late-effects of their treatments. All services and programs are free of charge.
Located at 1005 Broadway in Highland, Leaps of Love is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday and closed Saturday-Sunday.