CHAMPAIGN — Relay for Life of Champaign County has once again been named a national winner.
The local relay secured four state awards for its participation in the annual American Cancer Society fundraiser, then went on to be recognized as one of three top relays in the U.S., says its event chairwoman for the past two years, Jill Rannebarger.
The Champaign County relay won the Terry Zahn Award for a second year, which is given to three relay events out of more than 5,000 nationally, for excellence in communication.
The local relay also won in the national competition, for the first time, the Heart of Relay Award for Youth Engagement, Rannebarger said.
Youth were involved in helping with survivor events from throughout the county, making key chains and hats for survivors and helping educate participants on how to prevent cancer, she said.
In 2012, Champaign County Relay for Life won, in addition to the national Terry Zahn Award, the national Heart of Relay Award in both Mission Delivery and Survivorship.
This year, the Champaign County relay raised $235,000, which exceeded its fundraising goal by $14,000, Rannebarger said.
But these awards are about more than fundraising, she said.
They're about how the relay leaders and volunteers promote the events and involve the community all year long in both Relay for Life and the mission of the American Cancer Society, she said.
"We try to make it a 365-day event, not just one day," Rannebarger added.
Money raised at Relay for Life helps pay for cancer research and services for cancer patients.
Rannebarger said she will be one of four event chairs for the coming year, as the local relay and its activities have grown. Planning for next year's relay is underway, and organizers are looking for more people in the community to get involved, she said.
Here are two upcoming planning sessions the public is invited to attend, to find out about the relay and chances for volunteering, Rannebarger said:
— Workshop set for 8-11 a.m. Nov. 16 at Philo Road Church of Christ, 2601 Philo Road, U.
— Committee meeting set for 6 p.m. Nov. 19 at Coldwell Banker Honig-Bell, 1608 Broadmoor Drive, C.
"These are for anybody to come and help," Rannebarger says. "Come and be a part of it."