Dunlap woman raises money in sister’s memory

Brenda Noel knows what it is like to lose a loved one to cancer. She also knows the importance of supporting cancer research.

Dunlap woman raises money in sister’s memory

Brenda Noel knows what it is like to lose a loved one to cancer. She also knows the importance of supporting cancer research.

For several years, Noel has participated in Relay For Life in memory of her sister, Suzi Russell, and the event is finally here again this year.

The American Cancer Society-West Central Region hosts the annual event Friday and Saturday at Northwoods Community Church in Dunlap.

With around 35 to 40 teams, the area raised more than $140,000 in 2009.

Noel, who is the top participant and head of the top team, raises more than $25,000 for the American Cancer Society almost every year in memory of her sister, who lost her fight against cancer 12 years ago.

Noel began a memorial run outside of Relay For Life called Suzi Russell Memorial Run, which raised around $25,000 this year. The race was May 15.

Noel continues to raise money through letters sent to family, friends and coworkers to donate to the American Cancer Society.

“I have a very positive response from those I send it to. Letters go to friends, family, coworkers,” Noel said. “I always said my Christmas list has gotten bigger because if they can receive my letters they can receive my Christmas card, and both lists grow every year. It’s very supportive.”

Noel expects between $6,000 and $8,000 in donations from the letters alone.

Before she began the memorial run for her sister, Noel worked on the committee board of the American Cancer Society for 10 years.

“I joined the American Cancer Society board less than a year after she died. It became my passion so other people didn’t have to lose a sister, or mother, or friend,” Noel said.

Throughout the 10 years, Noel and her team, Our Stars, raise between $25,000 and $50,000 each year.

“I sometimes had two or three teams. We had a family team and then people from work, and then we sometimes had a kids team. But our teams were always called Our Stars,” Noel said.

“Suzi and I shared stars as gifts. We all have a star looking down on us. We have all had a cancer experience. We weren’t celebrating just Suzi but all of those experiences.”

Noel still wears a star every day in memory of Suzi.

Relay For Life teams can have up to 15 members. Relay is over night, beginning at 4 p.m. Friday, and each team is expected to have a member walking the track at all times.

A silent auction, food and good company can all be found at the event.

“The Relay is family friendly. I would say Relayers are a family in themselves. We definitely have a friendly, competitive spirit within the teams, but everyone enjoys spending time with each other during the different activities and spending the night,” Caitlin Hubbard, senior income development representative for the West Central Region of the American Cancer Society, said.

There are currently 30 teams signed up for the event and more are expected.

Noel’s Our Stars team has raised $24,715.62 followed by the Jazzercise team with $6,808.42 and the Fueled For Life team with $4,579.38.

Hubbard stressed that Relay is open for anyone to participate, whether they are a member of a team or not.

“The Relay is open to the public if people want to walk a few laps, join in the silent auction or visit with participants,” she said.

Donations and teams are still being accepted. For more information on the local event visit the website at relayforlifepeoria.com.