By Kelly Lynch
KENDALLVILLE — Relay for Life of Noble County has raised more than $40,000 for its annual walk Saturday, but the organization still has a way to go to reach the finish line for its 2017 goal.
Coming off a year in which it was labeled a “PaceSetter” community after exceeding each of its goals in 2016, event leader Carol Schellenberg is optimistic the organization will reach the $57,000 fundraising objective it set for itself.
Twenty teams already have signed up to take part Saturday.
“We have to continue to spread this word that it’s an event in May, but if we all work diligently throughout the year and do our part, we can make a difference in someone’s life,” Schellenberg said.
The event has gone through some changes in the past few years to inspire more participation. It transitioned from being held each year on the West Noble School Corp. campus to rotating throughout Noble County. It also was condensed from a 24-hour event to now taking place over 12 hours.
This year’s Relay for Life will be held at Kendallville’s Mid-America Windmill Museum, after being located at the Noble County Courthouse in Albion last year. The rotating venue is meant to remind county residents that all are welcome, not just those from a specific area.
“Cancer doesn’t discriminate against any of us. It doesn’t draw lines — this is Kendallville, this is Albion, this is Rome City,” Schellenberg said.
As a soon-to-be two-year survivor of cancer herself, Schellenberg said the event also is important because it recognizes those who have been lost to cancer, survivors and caregivers. In addition, it helps those who haven’t been affected to learn how to proactively check their own wellness.
All of the money raised through the event will go toward helping local residents pay for transportation to cancer treatments, overnight hospital stays and associated purchases, such as wigs, as well as research to end cancer.
Schellenberg said less than 5 percent of the money raised will be used to cover the cost of the event.
Relay for Life, which is free to all participants, will begin at 11 a.m. with an opening ceremony, and the track will open to participants about 11:30 a.m.
Food will be available for purchase as an additional fundraiser throughout the day, while a disc jockey will entertain participants with music. Kids’ activities and a silent auction also are scheduled.
Parkview Health will be at the site to provide a health and wellness area from noon to 4 p.m., and offer information on health screenings and free blood-pressure checks.
At 5 p.m., cancer survivors and caregivers will take a lap around the track before heading into the windmill museum’s Baker Hall for a special dinner, which will be attended by Miss Indiana Brianna DeCamp and served by the Albion Lions Club.
The luminaria ceremony will begin at dusk, about 9 p.m., with each light representing a loved one lost to cancer, supporting those affected by cancer and honoring survivors of cancer.
Schellenberg said it’s an overwhelming experience to take part in the ceremony, as each name written on a bag will be read to the crowd.
Adding to the luminaries’ benefit, each bag is now held down by donated canned goods instead of the rice that used to weigh them down. The food will be donated to local pantries that are willing to pick it up from the event.
The end of the Relay will be marked by a closing ceremony at 10:30 p.m., during which event leaders will celebrate the day by recognizing participants, announcing the campsite decoration winners for the event’s “Cancer Be Gone with the Wind” theme and updating those involved on the fundraising numbers.
Schellenberg said Saturday’s weather looks promising to hold the event outside as planned, but if there are thunderstorms, Baker Hall has been reserved so activities can be moved inside.
“Don’t let the weather deter you,”Schellenberg said. “It will still be a great weekend.”
For more information or updates before the event, find Relay for Life of Noble County on Facebook.