Relay rally draws crowd for American Cancer Society’s signature fundraiser

Catherine Larkin

When doctors told Max Rubin four years ago that he had prostrate cancer, he realized the battle would be hard.

But he never expected his loved ones would have to join him on his journey.

Two years after his diagnosis, while Rubin was undergoing treatment, he found out his wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer. After learning that three out of his four neighbors also had breast cancer, Rubin knew he had to do something to help his family and his community.

He decided to volunteer for the Relay For Life.

Rubin, Evanston’s director of facilities management, was one of several speakers Thursday at the kickoff for the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraiser, which will be held this spring in Evanston.

Raising $11 million in Illinois and more than $210 million at the 3,000 events in communities across the country, Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s most lucrative. Teams raise money to participate in an 18-hour event where team members take turns walking or running laps. The event is highlighted by a candle-lighting ceremony after sunset to honor those who have battled cancer.

Evanston’s third annual relay will take place May 31 to June 1 in James Park, at the intersection of Oakton Street and Ridge Avenue. The majority of the proceeds will go toward funding grants for cancer research at universities such as University of Chicago and Northwestern.

The cancer society expects the third annual Evanston relay to nearly triple in size compared to last year, said Evanston society representative Sarah Bytnar. This year’s goal is to register at least 55 teams and raise $80,000. Last year’s event drew 18 teams and raised $28,000.

“(The goal) is high, but with the response we’ve gotten tonight, we’re really excited,” Bytnar said.

More than 100 community members, including several NU students, attended the rally at the Hilton Garden Inn, 1818 Maple Ave.

With candles lining the tables and purple balloons bearing the event’s logo filling the room, past relay participants and volunteers shared their stories and explained the uniqueness of the event.

“It’s not merely a fundraiser or awareness campaign,” said Speech junior Jeff Treem. “It’s a celebration of a community coming together.”

Treem, who is responsible for recruiting relay teams of NU students, along with Speech senior Kristian Aloma and Justine Macneil, Weinberg ’01, said the event helps foster relationships between students and Evanston residents.

“It gives an opportunity for Northwestern students to unite for a cause and get together with the Evanston community and work together toward a goal,” he said.

Last year, about 20 NU students participated in the event, Treem said.

Jan Freise, the chairperson for the relay, said this year’s event will be unforgettable.

“We’re going to party this year like Evanston has never seen a party before!”