Riled up for Relay

Erin Wood
Kevan Vincent, 9, squeezes water from a sponge into a plastic container to help his team win a game at the Relay For Life of Washington Saturday afternoon at Washington Community High School.

Fifteen years after they graduated from Washington Community High School, nearly a dozen women met again at their alma mater to remember a friend they lost a year ago.

“Leslie’s Walking Warriors” set up camp on the high school’s track Saturday afternoon and joined the 14 other teams raising money for cancer research, education, advocacy and patient services in Washington’s second annual Relay For Life.

The dozen “Walking Warriors” traveled from both coasts as a tribute to Leslie Aschliman, who was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in October 2007 and died in July 2008 at the age of 32 after the cancer spread to her lungs.

“We thought it would be a good way to get together and honor her and all the other people still fighting cancer,” said DeLene Bane of Pekin.

The team surpassed their fundraising goal, raising more than $5,000 in donations from friends and family. As of Tuesday, Relay For Life of Washington had raised about $18,000 among the  15 teams that participated. However, donations can be made until the end of the month at www.relayforlifewashington.com.

Last year’s event raised $24,000 among 14 teams. Megan Hicklin, an income development representative for the American Cancer Society, said she is confident this year’s fundraising efforts will at least match last year’s by the end of the month.

Washington’s relay began just last year, and Hicklin said she thinks it is important for communities to have their own events and support their hometown cancer patients and survivors.

“It shows a community can come together and celebrate at least one thing they have in common because everybody is affected by cancer,” she said.

During Washington’s relay, teams set up tents and lawn chairs near the WCHS track and camped out from 3 p.m. Saturday to 9 a.m. Sunday. Throughout the 18-hour event, team members took turns walking around the track to symbolize the  continuing fight against cancer.

There were ceremonies honoring cancer survivors and those who lost their battles to the disease, youth activities, a silent auction, food and live music.

About 300 people attended the event, including 45 local cancer survivors. Among the survivors was Claire Brennan, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2000 and who has been cancer-free for five years.

Before Washington formed its own relay, Brennan participated in Metamora’s event. She said she is glad she and her co-workers from Washington Community Bank have a relay in their hometown.

“Everybody farmed out to other relays,” she said. “It’s nice to keep it here and have our own.”