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updated: 6/12/2013 6:27 PM

ECC Relay For Life honors, remembers those touched by cancer

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When Bryan Lantz enrolled at Elgin Community College, his brother Taylor was already involved in volunteer fundraising for the college's annual Relay For Life event.

"He said he did it for my mom and I said well, of course I'll do it for the same reason," Lantz remembered.

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Lantz' mother battled multiple bouts of cancer for years before she died this past winter. Lantz, of Elgin, graduated in December but has continued working and taking classes at ECC for the spring semester. He will participate in the college's 11th annual relay this Friday -- his third -- along with hundreds of other people raising money for the American Cancer Society.

ECC has raised more than $500,000 in the past 10 years and, as of Wednesday afternoon, had almost $40,000 toward this year's fundraising effort. But the relay event, which lasts from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday, does more than raise money.

It gives people a chance to honor those battling cancer and remember loved ones lost.

ECC's opening ceremony will happen at 7 p.m. in the college's Visual and Performing Arts Center and Spartan Events Center parking lots, 1700 Spartan Drive, in Elgin. The relay starts with a lap for cancer survivors and caregivers and continues with representatives from the 30-plus participating teams constantly circling the track overnight.

A key component of each year's event is the luminaria ceremony, which will be held at 10 p.m. Friday. The paper lanterns, lit in honor of those who have died from cancer or are still battling the disease, will illuminate the dark as the lights from the entire campus are shut off.

Katie Storey, ECC's coordinator of student volunteer/community outreach programs, said the names of individuals being remembered by each luminaria will be read out loud during the ceremony.

"That is the most emotional part of Relay," Storey said.

About 200 people are expected to participate in the walk but Storey expects several hundred more to show up to support them and take part in the games and activities along the sidelines. All of the money raised at the event from various booths and attractions will go to the American Cancer Society along with late donations accepted through Aug. 31.

Lantz expects to be on the track at least three hours and up all night during the length of the relay.

"The meaning that it has toward me and my brother is so much stronger now because we've lost someone to cancer," Lantz said. "Before we were fighting to help our mom survive and now we're fighting for her memory."

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