When the Deerfield-Highland Park Relay For Life circles the Adams Field Track at Deerfield High School from 6 p.m. Saturday until 6 a.m. Sunday, not many people will know how Jenny Maltas was a force behind the scenes.
Maltas, an assistant to Deerfield Village Manager Kent Street, has been part of the nationwide event since her mother was diagnosed with cancer 12 years ago. Her team, Courtney’s Crusaders, is one of the top ten fundraising groups in Illinois within the organization.
Though the Crusaders participate in the Joliet Relay For Life, Maltas jumped into planning the Deerfield-Highland Park event when she was asked by local organizer Janet Pacanowski.
“I met with Janet Pacanowski and Mayor (Harriet) Rosenthal and brainstormed,” Maltas said. “I took her (Pacanowski) to Tom & Eddie’s and we arranged a promotion May 23 where ten percent of the proceeds were donated.”
Pacanowski also recruited Maltas to talk to leaders of the local event. “She thought I might inspire them,” Maltas said. When Maltas and her family first began participating 12 years ago, they raised $2,600. It increased 10-fold last year to $26,000.
For Maltas, the story is very personal. Her mother was diagnosed 12 years ago. Though she survived until last year, it was a difficult fight. “She only had two or three good years in that time,” she said.
On Saturday, the opening ceremony begins at 6 p.m. where local cancer survivors speak and are honored before joining in a survivors lap around the track. They are then joined by family members before everyone begins circling the oval for the next 12 hours.
The goal is to have at least one member of each group on the track at all times, according to Pacanowski. Some people will bring tents and camp on the athletic field. People will have an impact against the disease, according to Maltas.
“I had tears in my eyes when my mother came up to me during Relay and said ‘I see how much you love me,’” Maltas said. “It keeps us going. It keeps her memory going. I feel we are making a difference.”
At Monday’s Village Board meeting when Rosenthal was issuing a proclamation recognizing Relay For Life, Maltas received her own honor. Maltas received an outstanding service award from her peers, the Illinois Association of Municipal Management Assistants.