The 2012 Barrington Relay for Life is happening TOMORROW and team leaders like 14-year-old Nick Rodriguez are in the final stages of preparing for the big night. Nick’s team, called Elena Rocks, is one of over 90 teams participating in this year’s Relay. The event itself is an impressive feat in planning, preparation and fundraising, but what I find most inspiring are the personal stories motivating many of the teams to take part. For team Elena Rocks, it’s a story about two young siblings taking charge in the face of cancer to support their 10-year-old sister, who is a survivor.
Elena Rodriguez was diagnosed with a cancer called Neuroblastoma when she was just 13-months-old. She has been in some form of treatment nearly her entire life and has undergone four major brain surgeries in the last 18 months to address serious complications caused by treatments for the disease.
For the second year in a row, Elena’s big brother, Nick and younger sister, Sofia, have rallied a team of about 20 friends to walk in Elena’s name in Barrington’s Relay. Team Elena raised $16,000 during last year’s event at a time when Elena’s health had taken a turn for the worse. She was weeks away from having a major brain surgery to put an end to frequent seizures, a side effect of her cancer treatment. Nick says, “Naturally I always wanted to protect my sister and make sure nothing happens to her and, when she was very sick last summer, it was kind of scary because things were totally out of my control.”
Since her surgery last summer, Elena’s life has been seizure free. And Team Elena is walking again and on target to raise $20,000 in tomorrow’s Relay for Life, which is the American Cancer Society’s biggest fundraiser of the year. “It’s only drops in a bucket but it all adds up in the end. It takes a lot of money to research the treatments and cures but hopefully, through a collective effort, we can make a difference.”
Their mom, Susan Rodriguez, says, “So much of our life is focused on our Elena and her illness. We’ve tried very hard to shelter the other kids from the uglier, more difficult side, the hospital visits, the tests and the pain. Barrington’s Relay for Life is a way to put the emphasis on the positive. Last year’s Relay, especially the luminaria walk, allowed us to experience the sadness together, but also the hope that comes with having a sick person in your family.”
Susan says people who took part in last year’s Relay gave the family hope at a time when they needed it most. To me, the enthusiasm in her voice made clear that the Relay is so much bigger than a fundraiser. And our participation, on any level, offers a boost that can’t be purchased to families seeking support as they face this disease.
“The Relay for Life is very significant to Elena. Every time somebody gives a donation and when people show up and cheer for her, she feels remarkably special. She’s old enough to understand that, as difficult as things have been, she’s been extraordinarily lucky. She is better now. We don’t know how long she’ll be better, but she’s had a fantastic year. She’s a happy, outgoing, energetic and incredibly kind little girl. She’s back to herself and we hope she stays that way for a long time.”
And that’s what the Relay for Life is all about! Helping people like Elena celebrate more birthdays is the whole point and the reason why hundreds will gather at Barrington’s High School Stadium tomorrow night.
If you’d like to support the Rodriguez family and “Team Elena”, you’ll find their Relay for Life page by clicking HERE.
You can search all of the Barrington relay teams and pick one you’d like to support by clicking HERE, you’ll find the Barrington Relay’s Facebook page by clicking HERE and you’ll find many more details about the event and how you can get involved at RelayforLifeBarrington.com.
There are dozens of fun activities planned for the Relay for Life happening tomorrow, June 8th, at Barrington High School so I thought it might be helpful to put together a quick list of events by time. I’ll be publishing that post soon right here at 365Barrington.com, so be sure to stay tuned and hope to see you at the Relay!