CALUMET CITY | For Lansing resident Marlene Cook, the fact that she has a mother, a daughter-in-law and a friend who either died from or are coping with cancer was reason enough to spend a Saturday afternoon helping to raise awareness of the disease — along with money for research toward a cure.
Cook was a member of the Shba’s Cancer Stompers team that participated in the Relay for Life event from Saturday afternoon to Sunday morning at the football stadium at Thornton Fractional North High School, 755 Pulaski Road.
“I’m going to do what I can and hopefully some more,” Cook said of her participation in the overnight event, in which more than two dozen teams walked laps on the running track. In the weeks and months leading up to the Relay, team members found financial sponsors to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
Event Chairman Julie Michaels said officials hoped this particular event would raise up to $25,000 by the time it ended at 6 a.m. Sunday. Pledges made in advance totaled just over $18,000, she said.
The event was by no means a competition, as people partaking in it walked laps around the track at their own pace.
“I’ll rest if I start to feel tired, before I start walking again,” Cook said Saturday afternoon of her efforts.
About 60 people were on hand when the 11th annual event at the high school began shortly after 1 p.m., with many of those people being cancer survivors themselves. Michaels said it was impossible to characterize those individuals in any one category.
“They all have their own separate stories to tell,” she said.
One woman, Sunette Vanardo-Smith, has coped with breast cancer for the past five years. She said her initial diagnosis caught her off guard, even though she is a medical doctor.
“Being a doctor, we don’t always take care of ourselves as we should,” said the 23-year pediatrician who was affiliated with Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, which is why she was able to get solid information about the condition right after being diagnosed.
“I really didn’t know much about it, because I was dealing with children, and children don’t get breast cancer,” she said.
Offering support to the event, along with another Relay for Life event to be held July 21 at Thornton High School in Harvey, is Thornton Township government.
The township entered a team to walk in the event and also, for the first time, encouraged Lansing Floral Greenhouse and Flowers by Michelle in South Holland to donate purple floral wreathes that were put on display at businesses in Calumet City, Dolton, Lansing and South Holland to show support for the event.