Cancer survivors, their families, their caretakers and people who want to fight the disease came together at the Deerfield High School track for the annual Deerfield-Highland Park Relay For Life Saturday with a purpose as unified as their stories were diverse.
More than 300 people circled the track at some point during the 12-hour event which began Saturday night and ended Sunday morning. Some participants brought tents and sleeping bags to rest as different teammates took their turns walking around the quarter-mile oval.
Deerfield Mayor Harriet Rosenthal’s speech at opening ceremonies started the Relay and set the tone. “All of us have been touched by this insidious disease in one way or another,” she said.
One of the largest contingents at the event came from Walgreens. Many of their employees from the Deerfield corporate headquarters were there as well as people from the local stores including event Chair Al Carter. This is his fourth year in charge.
“One of my best friends, my grandfather and my mentor died from cancer,” Carter, 32, said. The Chicago resident is a Walgreens corporate manager. “My first year (being part of Relay For Life) I was a team captain and I fell in love with it.”
Health, awareness and philanthropy are part of the Walgreens corporate culture, according to Laura Fosselman of Lake Villa who works at the Wilmot Road campus. She was walking with her husband and children.
Walgreens Way to Well Brings Many to Relay
“We have a way to well program,” Fosselman said. “It’s well to walk and we do a lot of charity so it is a win win.” The specific name of the program is A Way to Well, according to overall Walgreens team captain Kalani Reelitz of Round Lake.
After Rosenthal opened the event, Donna Lee Caringella of Highland Park shared her life changing story after she was diagnosed with cancer less than two years ago.
“On August 16, 2010, I got a call from my doctor. He said ‘you should come in today,’” Caringella said. “When I hung up I had the feeling my life would never be the same.” She talked of nearly two years of treatment and how others came to her aide when she could not do for herself. “I stand before you today in full remission,” she finished.
The Wilneff family of Highland Park was there for their patriarch, cancer survivor Laurence Wilneff of Highland Park, and their friend, Janet Goldberg of Deerfield. Goldberg has lived with the disease 13 years but her story, though still one of hope, is rockier than Carringella’s.
After her initial diagnosis in 1999 at 39, she went into remission after treatment but in 2005 the disease returned in other parts of her body. She credits advances in medicine and her doctor’s willingness to use it with enabling her to live seven years with State 4 Cancer.
“When something stops working my doctor tells me about something new to try,” Goldberg said. “I’m really lucky because we move on to the next new thing.”
Optimists Attain Bronze Status
Another team with a tent to walk the night and wee morning hours away was the Deerfield Optimists. “Everyone has a friend or family member who has had the disease,” Optimist Judy Geuder said. She is proud of the fact the team has attained bronze status for its fundraising effort.
Veronica Otten-Goldman of Riverwoods found a way to combine her business life with her fundraising effort. She sells handbags including one with pink handles in the breast cancer symbol.
“I’m donating 30 percent of the sales from the Pinky Promise to the Relay,” Otten-Goldberg said as she stood by a table of handbags adjacent to her team’s tent.