Relay for Life event creates common bond
By Romi Herron For The Courier-News May 12, 2012 8:40PM
2. MEMORY: Sarah Luna, a sophomore at St. Charles North High School, reflects at a luminaria bag she placed in honor of a loved one who lost her life to cancer.
Updated: June 14, 2012 8:22AM
The three college girls used to call themselves Charlie’s Angels.
They often talked about getting matching tattoos that represented faith, hope and love, but it never happened. In 2009, one of them lost her battle to cancer, and in her memory, Lindsay Mulder and Sara Soleymani-Alizadeh walked Saturday in American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life at St. Charles North High School.
“She was the strongest person I know for everything I went through,” said Mulder, speaking of her friend Lisa Franze, a 27-year-old woman who died of liver cancer after a two-year battle. “She gave us a good example for us to live our lives to the fullest.”
Mulder, Soleymani-Alizadeh and Franze attended University of Wisconsin-Whitewater together. Soleymani-Alizadeh said the three were optimistic after Franze’s first round of chemo seemed effective. But later, the cancer returned with a terminal outcome.
“She was our best friend and ‘sister,’” said Soleymani-Alizadeh.
Brian Ricketts, a senior at St. Charles North High School, also took part in the event. A three-time survivor of rhaddomyosarcoma, Brian is now cancer-free. He faced uncertainty at age 6 when he was first diagnosed, and then again at ages 9 and 12 years. Two years ago, he completed treatment and plans to attend Loyola University in Chicago for computer science.
“I love this event because everyone is together for a common cause,” said Brian, who explained that dozens of school clubs unite at the event, which raises money for cancer research. Often called upon to support, encourage or even just understand what others affected by cancer are enduring, Brian said a positive outlook is key.
“I Just tell people, ‘you’re probably going to be just fine,’” he said. “You have to keep hope up. You can’t give up because you can’t go anywhere if you don’t expect to go somewhere.”
St. Charles North High School English instructor, Katherine McCleary, is one of the facilitators for the school’s Hope Club. The goal of the group is to address any issue that poses challenges for teens, including depression, stress, or grief.
The Hope Club coordinated the luminaria ceremony, which centered around white paper bags illuminated with glow sticks. Some bags were designated for cancer survivors or those who lost their lives to cancer, and the $10 donation for each bag will be donated to ACS, McCleary said.
McCleary said students were particularly affected by the recent loss of a St. Charles East High School junior, Anna Daley, who died of leukemia earlier in the week.
“Even for those who didn’t know Anna, just the concept or idea that this was someone their age and someone who lost her life was kind of shock,” McCleary said. “ That is really affecting them.”
One of the members of Hope Club, Sarah Luna, a sophomore at St. Charles North, said the event brought back memories of her aunt, Karen Luna, who died of cancer. Relay for Life has a strong emotional impact that draws attention to a vital cause, she said.
“It’s awesome, it’s so powerful,” said Sarah, of the relay element that brings participants to walk together around the gym. Many walked arm-in arm, others cried and embraced each other.
More than 335 participants and 36 teams registered for Relay for Life, and more than $11,897 was raised, according to the American Cancer Society. More information is available at www.cancer.org.