Kathy Daley had a story to tell.
Standing before a small crowd at Oak Forest High School Jan. 12, Daley spoke of her parents and a good friend—all lost to cancer.
"Just over two years after losing my dad, my mom started to suffer from terrible back pains," Daley said.
Tests led to a diagnosis of Stage 4 kidney cancer; she died six months later.
"It's a strange feeling once both parents are gone," Daley said. "At 23 years old, I felt like an orphan. There is a loneliness that I cannot describe. Knowing that you will never have your father walk you down the aisle or have your mother there when you deliver your first child. It feels overwhelming."
Stories like Daley's inspire a passion for fundraising that fuels Relay for Life events across the country.
The kick-off event for Oak Forest's Relay for Life offered information about the American Cancer Society’s mission of saving lives faster by helping people stay well, helping people get well, finding cures and fighting back. With a theme of "sports" for this year's event, attendees chanted, “Knock Out Cancer” at their tailgating refreshment table filled with snacks and even a chili cook-off. Guests had the opportunity to win prizes and learn more about the exciting activities planned for this year’s Relay For Life.
Daley, who was diagnosed herself with cancer after her parents passed away spoke about her own experience.
"When I was 29, I went to the emergency room looking from relief from regular migraines," she said. "The doctor felt a lump in my throat. After several tests, it was determined I had thyroid cancer. I have since beat it and am grateful everyday. I felt that I was an example, proof that cancer does not always win!"
Daley is not only a cancer survivor but also a team captain, committee member, and loyal volunteer to American Cancer Society.
"Cancer sucks," she said. "I have lost people so close to me and others battle against this wretched disease. I am a survivor, I am proof that cancer is beginning to lose this fight and that we are beating cancer. I will continue to Relay until there is no longer a need for Relays."
While the main objective of Relay For Life is to raise money for cancer research and cancer patients, the event helps spread cancer awareness, celebrate the lives of survivors, remember those who lost their lives to cancer and unite a community in the fight against cancer.
This year’s American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Oak Forest will be held June 21, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. June 22, at the Oak Forest Park District's Central Park.
Volunteers are needed to organize and recruit teams, secure community support, coordinate logistics, obtain refreshments and prizes, assist with publicity and plan entertainment activities for this exciting and energizing event. For more information on getting involved, contact event chair Val Shalati via email.