SYCAMORE – Cancer doesn’t sleep, so neither will Shannon O’Keefe on June 21.
O’Keefe is in her fifth year as the chairperson for Relay for Life DeKalb County, the annual event that draws hundreds of people to support cancer survivors and raise money for the fight against cancer.
Relay for Life DeKalb County and the American Cancer society have hosted the event for the past 18 years. This year’s event will run from 6 p.m. June 21 to 6 a.m. the following morning at the Sycamore High School track. Those interested can find more information about the event at www.relayforlife.org/dekalbil.
O’Keefe encourages even those who aren’t participating to come to the relay, she said when she spoke about her involvement in the event with reporter Katie Dahlstrom
Dahlstrom: How did you get involved with Relay for Life?
O’Keefe: I was a junior in high school and I did my first relay here, but I got involved in volunteering when a really close friend passed away. I knew what the [American Cancer Society] and relay was, so I just hopped online and sent an email saying I wanted to volunteer.
They got back to me that afternoon and I met with them and they asked if I wanted to join the committee and I said, ‘yes.’ Then a week later they asked if I wanted to co-chair and I said, ‘yes.’ A week later they asked if I wanted to just chair the event and I was like ‘I’ve never been on the committee, but OK.’
So I just went in head first and have never looked back. I’ve loved every minute of it.
Dahlstrom: You mentioned you have a personal connection that drove you to the organization, can you talk a little bit about that?
O’Keefe: It actually started when I was 12 years old – my 6-year-old cousin passed away from neuroblastoma, which she was born with. My dad donated to the American Cancer Society and he explained what it was to me and my sister. Then, when I was in middle school, my friend was diagnosed – I believe she had a bone cancer – and so that hit pretty close to home because she battled that past graduation. She passed away a few years after we graduated. We started relaying for her when we were juniors in high school.
Then, after my close friend that I had grown up with in 2009 passed away, that’s when I knew I really just wanted to do something more than just being a team member. That’s when I decided to volunteer. Since then my boyfriend’s dad passed away and my grandma passed away. It’s definitely close to home.
Dahlstrom: What’s the biggest challenge with running the event?
O’Keefe: The biggest challenge really has been that it’s a growing event, so we’re trying to get enough volunteers to run the event. We want to be able to offer people everything that the event should offer. We have an awesome committee, but volunteers would help.