Every person at one point or another is faced with adversity, something even superheroes must overcome. Superman constantly battles with his one weakness – kryptonite, while Daredevil fights for justice despite being blind. For countless Champaign County residents facing the fight of their lives, cancer is the enemy they must overcome.
In hopes of inspiring cancer patients to find their inner superhero strength and stand up to cancer, organizers of the 18th annual Relay for Life of Champaign County are encouraging participants at the May 20-21 event to come as their favorite superhero.
“With the popularity of the superhero movies and TV shows, we hope this will be a great theme that everyone can have a lot of fun with,” said Scott Engle, Relay for Life of Champaign County co-chairperson.
As of May 13, 29 teams had signed up to be part of the local Relay event, which will be held at the Champaign County Fairgrounds in Urbana. Last year, 35 teams raised $76,936.41 for the American Cancer Society (ACS), while 30 teams combined to raise $81,735 in 2014.
On a national level, the ACS’ signature and most profitable fundraiser generated $287 million in 2015, down 8 percent from the $314 million raised in 2014.
Along with helping to fund cancer research, Relay dollars are used on a local level to help provide cancer patients with trained patient navigators and trained volunteers who help provide peer support. The funds also go toward providing patients with rides to and from cancer treatment centers.
The ACS estimates there will be an estimated 1,685,210 new cancer diagnoses in the country this year alone, and 595,690 Americans will lose their lives to some form of cancer.
To help combat these projected cancer statistics, the ACS, as of March 1, was funding 782 cancer-related grants nationwide totaling $420 million.
Engle, who lost his sister, Mandy Harvey, to ovarian cancer in 2011, knows every dollar raised is one step closer to finding a cure for cancer. To help in the fight, Engle decided to turn to arguably the most notable superhero vehicle of all-time – the Batmobile.
“The idea came about last year as my wife, Lisa, and I were delivering raffle baskets to the winners after the Relay,” Engle said. “We were really hoping that the theme would be superheroes and thought, ‘How cool would it be if we could get a Batmobile to come to the Relay next year?’”
After doing a little research, Engle discovered Carl’s Body Shop in Dayton had the Batmobile used in the 1966 “Batman” television series. The owners of the vehicle agreed to let Engle borrow it for the Relay.
The Batmobile will be on display at the Mandy’s Cancer Avengers relay team tent from 6 to 9 p.m. on May 20, and for a donation ($10 for adults and $5 for children 13 and under), individuals attending this year’s Relay can have their picture taken in the seat usually reserved for Batman himself.
“I can’t thank (the Batmobile owners) enough for letting us do this,” Engle said. “Speaking from experience, when you sit in the Batmobile, you become a little kid.”
The 2016 Relay for Life of Champaign County kicks off at 6 p.m. on May 20 with the opening of a silent auction (closes at 8:30 p.m.) in the Michael Farms Horticulture Building. The annual live cake auction will not be held during the Relay event. Instead, it will take place at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 15, at the fairgrounds.
Following the survivor lap at 6:05 p.m., the survivor dinner will begin at 6:15 p.m. in the 4-H Activities Building. Music provided by Michelle Slone’s Chime Choir will follow the dinner at 6:45 p.m.
The sale of luminarias will end at 8:45 p.m. with the luminaria ceremony scheduled to begin at 9:15 p.m.
From 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., various activities will be held including line dancing (10 p.m.), Zumba (11 p.m.), musical chairs (midnight), dodgeball (1 a.m.), whiffle ball (2 a.m.), tug of war (3 a.m.) and kickball (4 a.m.).
The closing ceremony will kick off at 5 a.m. on May 21, and breakfast, provided by Sisters For Survivors, will be served at 6 a.m. in the 4-H Activities Building.
“From the survivor lap, to the luminaria ceremony, to walking around the track at the wee hours of the morning, the entire event makes me so proud to be a part of it,” said Adrianne Kiser, Relay co-chairperson. “Join me and get involved to help make life easier for those individuals battling this terrible disease.”
Relay For Life cake contest, auction set for Sunday
The Relay For Life of Champaign County’s annual Cake Decorating Contest & Auction has been tweaked for 2016. Instead of taking place during the Relay as it has in years past, organizers have decided to highlight the cake event by giving it a day of its own.
While the Relay will be held from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. May 20-21, the Cake Decorating Contest & Auction will take place at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 15, in the Michael Farms Horticulture Building at the Champaign County Fairgrounds in Urbana.
“The cake auction has been separated this year mainly because the event took about three hours last year due to the large donations of cakes,” said Adrianne Kiser, Relay For Life of Champaign County co-chairperson. “We want individuals to be able to enjoy the Relay and not spend the majority of the evening in the cake auction. We hope that this will get everyone excited for the week ahead as well.”
Individuals interested in submitting a cake into the contest must bring it to the fairgrounds on Sunday between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. While contestants are invited to participate in this year’s Relay theme by decorating their cake to resemble their favorite superhero, any decorated cake will be accepted.
Monetary prizes donated by The Peoples Savings Bank will be awarded to the first-place winner in each of the following age categories: 8-12, 13-18 and 19-plus. There will also be a category for cake-decorating professionals.
After the judges have selected the winners, every cake entered into the contest will be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
“The profit from the cake will be split 50/50,” Kiser said. “Sellers will select a (Relay) team they want their portion to go toward, and the buyers select a team. Some teams may get the whole amount if the seller and buyer are for the same team.”
During the cake auction, several Relay teams will be offering food and drinks for a donation. Also, luminarias for the Relay will be sold for a suggested donation of at least $10, and raffle tickets will be available.
All money raised during Sunday’s Cake Decorating Contest & Auction will benefit the American Cancer Society.
Kiser said she decided to take on a leadership role for the Relay event this year to help raise money and awareness for a disease she is all too familiar with.
“I have lost several very important people to cancer, some way to soon,” she said. “I also work in the medical field and watch people fight for their lives every day. I believe that with fundraising and research, a cure will one day be found.”
For more information on the Cake Decorating Contest & Auction, contact Kiser at 937-869-8281 or Staci Cotrill at 937-631-4990.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.