Fighting, celebrating together at Relay for Life of DeKalb County

July 30, 2018

SYCAMORE – When Brianna Perry of DeKalb learned that Jake Dobie, a fellow student at St. Mary Catholic School in DeKalb, had been diagnosed with cancer, she wanted to show she cared.

“I’ve known Jake since kindergarten,” Perry said. “I wanted to help him get better.”

Perry placed a jug for donations at Lehan Drugs in DeKalb and asked local moms and dads for donations. She encouraged her first-grade class last year to become involved and raised more than $1,000.

The Walking for Jake team was one of 18 at the 22nd Relay for Life of DeKalb County on Saturday at Sycamore High School, 427 Spartan Trail.

Denise MacLaren, American Cancer Society community development manager, said the annual event raised $9,283.55. Combined with earlier events at Northern Illinois University and DeKalb High School, the grand total raised was $31,793.55.

Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital was the presenting sponsor. A Daisy Girl Scout troop led the opening ceremony, and Juanita Mundy, wife of former Sycamore Mayor Ken Mundy, sang the national anthem.

The relay celebrates cancer survivors, remembers those who lost their battle with the disease and raises money for the American Cancer Society. Money goes toward providing wigs for women undergoing chemotherapy; rides to treatments; the Look Good, Feel Better program; and the Hope Lodge facility for cancer patients. It also helps fund grants for cancer research.

DeKalb residents Jerry Busby and Gracia Walker-Polarek have been attending the relay every year since it began in 1996.

Busby was a member of the Jimmers team that participated in the relay from 1996 to 2005. The team was named in honor of Busby’s grandson, Jim, who died of leukemia in 1995 when he was 9.

Busby also lost his wife, Sandy, to cancer. The couple first met on a Valentine’s Day and were together for

55 years.

“When they started the relay in 1996, teams had runners,” Busby said. “Now they have walkers. It was once held all night until the next morning. I feel the hours of 5 to 10 p.m. are better.”

Walker-Polarek said she lost her parents to cancer.

“The battle against cancer is one the whole family fights,” Walker-Polarek said. “Let’s remember the people who are no longer with us and celebrate the ones who are.”

The relay included a silent auction, music, games, food, luminaria to remember cancer victims and an Ollie’s Frozen Custard social hosted by Team FOR YOU.

Texas Roadhouse of Sycamore held a “Survivor Brunch” earlier Saturday that drew 80 attendees, said Megan Brown, local store marketer. Cancer survivors and their caregivers ate for free while members of the public were charged $5 each. Texas Roadhouse donated proceeds from the brunch to the relay.

DeKalb resident Chris Doe has helped at the relay for the past 17 years. Her mother, Julie Atherton, died of breast cancer.

“I have been involved in the relay at the state and national level,” Doe said. “I attended a relay in Ireland last year. It was amazing. It’s exactly like what we do.”

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