Amid a crowded room, Forest Park community members began this year’s Relay for Life campaign on Jan. 26, 2005 at Jimmy’s Place.

The key speaker for the evening was Sandy Boy, a retired worker for the American Cancer Society and a cancer survivor.

“My entire family had cancer. My mother, father, aunts … my husband has cancer. I have cancer,” said Boy. “We have got to figure something out before my daughters are eligible for breast cancer.”

In Forest Park, Relay is the town’s answer to Boy’s heartfelt plea for help.

“It is the signature event for the American Cancer Society,” said Dave Goetz, a Forest Park resident and co-chair of this year’s Forest Park Relay for Life. “Last year we raised over $300 million dollars nation-wide. Locally we raised $41,000; this year our goal is $65,000.”

Relay is a seven-month fundraiser that culminates in an overnight relay walk, in which Forest Park unites with over 3,800 towns and communities across the nation to raise money for the American Cancer Society. The money is used for education, research, advocacy and patient services.

“My [medication] was funded by the American Cancer Society,” Boy said. “The research funds stay in Illinois: The hospitals doing the research are local. What I raise here in Forest Park, chances are, will go to help someone in Loyola Medical Center.”

To help inspire the crowd, Boy read a poem titled “Why Do I Walk” that describes the physical act of participating in Relay and the emotional ties its volunteers share.

Fundraising plans for next year include working with local religious ministers, obtaining corporate sponsorships and marching in the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade to help raise awareness, Goetz said.

This year FP Relay wants to enlist at least 30 teams of eight to 15 people each and committed to raising at least $100 per member.

“Each team raises money in its own way; it is kind of like a friendly competition, but it’s not cut-throat,” Goetz said.

“We send letters, car washes, raffles,” added Kelly Crawford, who works at the police department and co-chairs the Relay with Goetz.

For this year’s co-chairs the event is deeply personal.

“I got involved early in 1998 after the death of my wife. In addition, my mom is a survivor from colon cancer. In fact, a lot of cancers run in families,” Goetz said, adding that he has a one in five chance of getting cancer because of his family’s genetic history. His daughter is also more likely to develop breast cancer.

Likewise, Crawford’s family has battled the disease. The twenty-something-year-old is not only co-chairing the relay, but also leading two of its teams: her family team and the police department team.

Fundraising will end on August 12, 2005 with the overnight relay. That night, the teams will pitch tents and spend the night at The Park.  At least one member from each team will continually walk around the track throughout the night.

This continuous walk symbolizes the volunteers’ empathy with a cancer patient’s suffering and on-going battle.

In addition, survivors will walk the opening lap, as a symbol of their victory over cancer.

The event also includes a Luminaria Ceremony at 10:00 p.m., where volunteers light candles to honor community members who have lost their battle with cancer as well as those who have survived. The bags are placed around the track and light the path for the walkers.

The relay was not always a Forest Park event.  In fact, It began as a signature Oak Park event for the first four years.

“Attendance was down and most of the planners were in Forest Park,” Goetz said. “It still includes people from Oak Park and River Forest, but most of us here are from Forest Park.”

“The event makes you feel good about yourself and hopefully, someday we will have a cure,” Crawford said.

To sign up contact Amie Hadjis at the American Cancer Society at (708) 484-8541 or at Inscriptions are $25. Luminaria bags will be sold the night of the relay for $5.

Why do I walk …

Why do I walk? Well let’s see …
Have you taken a look at my family tree?
It’s covered with those who have lost the fight,
Those who can’t kiss their kids
Those who live with pain and fear
Hoping for good health for another year.
I walk so that my children may know
The joy of watching THEIR children grow.
I walk because I’m driven to do it,
To give hope to those who are going through it.
I walk to ensure a few more hugs
For those people that are counting on drugs
To ease their pain and their minds
About saying “goodbye” before their time.
I’ll walk today and tomorrow for sure,
I’ll walk until they find a cure.