SYCAMORE – Landon Cooper held up a pair of Hoka shoes at the Relay For Life opening ceremony.
The size 10 shoes still had mud on them from Nebraska. He wore them while running through several states to raise money to cure sarcoma cancer.
The shoes alone have raised about $30,000 for cancer research, he said. Cooper and his Miles 2 Give team have been traveling on foot from the Pacific Ocean and made a stop at Sycamore to say hello to survivors of cancer and donate to Relay For Life. He auctioned his shoes, along with several other items.
“Our goal is the same as yours: $100,000,” Cooper said.
Cooper was one of many participants who came to Relay For Life at Sycamore High School on Friday to support survivors, raise money and have a good time. The event, which has been held in the county for 17 years, is hosted by Relay For Life of DeKalb County and the American Cancer Society. More than 330 participants registered and raised more than $62,000 Friday evening.
Participants who came walked laps around the school’s track to show their determination to fight cancer and care for those who have been affected by it. A sign that read, “There Is No Finish Until We Have A Cure,” hung over the starting line.
Survivor Mary Rehak said she felt blessed to have cancer.
“I know that’s funny to say or some of you might think,” Rehak said. “Not me.”
Since she was diagnosed with breast cancer in February, she’s learned how good the community and medical care are in DeKalb County.
Her nurse is a person she is able to go to church with, she said. She believes cancer will be cured one day.
For the first lap, all survivors gathered into groups divided by the number of years they’ve been alive since they were diagnosed with cancer. One person from each group shared their hopes and struggles with the audience. After they walked the first lap, their caregivers joined them in the second lap.
Madeline Alger, a DeKalb High School student, was at the event with her team, the Colorful Cancer Curers. Her team was one of 41 who contributed donations through fundraising. Most of the members of her team had family members who had cancer, she said.
Alger lost her grandmother to cancer several years ago and decided to participate in Relay For Life last year. She said participating in the relay and making donations to support other people who have cancer is important.
“It’s overwhelming, but in a good way, because this is more than double the people who came last year,” Alger said.
DeKalb resident Carol Barkhurst has been a cancer survivor for 17 years. This year was her first time participating in Relay For Life. She said she found the relay moving and appreciated the camaraderie. Barkhurst, her daughter Bridgette Anderson and about 25 other people formed the Happy Scrappers team. Through garage sales, the team raised $1,500.
Anderson said she found the event a lot of fun and was having a great time.
“It’s great to see the community out doing this,” Anderson said.