by Brent Hovey


Aurora -- "Mission: Possible."

That will be the theme of the eighth annual Relay For Life that will kick off June 2 at 8 a.m.

The Relay, like every year, will be a 24-hour event jam-packed with activities, games, shows, fundraisers, contests, food, music, inspiration and touching moments.

Activities get under way at 7:30 a.m. with a free pancake breakfast at Harmon School courtesy of the Rotary Club of Aurora.

It concludes with closing ceremonies and the presentation of awards at 7:30 a.m. June 3.

In between the breakfast and awards, participants will have plenty to do. Gates at Aurora High School's Veterans Stadium open at 8:30 a.m.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony, which signifies the opening of the Relay, will be performed by honorary cancer survivors Kris Banbury and Mahlania Leichliter.

Banbury is an Aurora mother of two, whose friends and family started a team in her honor last year and was one of the top fundraising teams.

Laura Holman, co-chairman of the Relay, said the honorary survivor is not something organizers do every year, but it makes sense to honor Banbury.

"We decided to select Kris for this role because her story embodies so much about hope that is at the center of Relay," Holman said. "In honoring her and those who support her, we hope to honor all survivors and their caregivers.

"CANCERFOUND Kris even though she is young and healthy, but she hasn't let her fight with it stop her from living her life to the fullest.

"She battles her fears and embraces each day with a spirit and infectious enthusiasm that inspires us all," Holman added.

Mahlania is a 5-year-old and a five-year survivor of cancer. She was diagnosed while her mom, Anna, was still pregnant. Anna didn't feel she was showing enough size for being seven month spregnant and went in for an ultrasound.

The ultrasound found a nero-blastoma tumor the size of a golf ball on Mahlania. Doctors had to wait until three months after her birth to perform surgery.

On June 30, Mahlania will celebrate five years of being cancer free.

Mahlania and Anna live in Independence. They were asked to be involved with the Aurora Relay by co-chair man John Lisowski.

"Anna had been looking for a way to get involved in a Relay, and she and her daughter will be the perfect addition to ours," Lisowski said.

After Banbury and Mahlania cut the ribbon to start the survivor-caregiver lap, fun and games take over.

Some of the highlights are the magic of Rick Smith, a celebrity dunk tank, Cleveland Cavaliers Scream Team, cooking demonstrations, Aurora School of Music, square dancing, Free Spirit Cloggers and music from Zach, Touch the Sky and Spirit Fire.

As much fun as one can have, the Relay For Life is all about hope and remembrance, and those feelings will come to the forefront at 9 p.m.

Everyone will gather on the track for a "Message to Heaven" balloon release and lap of hope that symbolize a community's commitment to fighting cancer.

At 9:30, all lights at Veterans Stadium will be turned off for the luminaria ceremony. The only light will come from candles inside bags placed along the track with the names of survivors or of those who have lost their cancer battle.

DURING THE entire event, individual teams will have their own games, fundraisers and raffles.

One activity sure to bring in a lot of money for cancer research is the auction. Items have been collected by teams and Relay organizers from all over the area.

There are many dinner gift certificates, including for the Leopard at the Bertram Inn, Thistledown and Northfield.

There are tickets to everything from Cleveland Cavs, Akron Aeros and Lake County Captains games to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Fun-N-Stuff, Cleveland Zoo, National Inventors Hall of Fame, Pro Football Hall of Fame and Cleveland Botanical Gardens.

There also are jewelry, gift certificates for the Aurora Veterinary Clinic, Curves and Cleveland Opera, gift baskets of all kinds and weekend trips.

There are sports memorabilia such as signed footballs from Dan Marino, Don Shula and Jimmy Johnson, and signed pictures of Bob Feller, Pete Rose, Shannon Brown and Shula.

According to Holman, there will be something for everyone, not just in the auction but the entire Relay For Life.

Last year's Relay raised more than $120,000 and in its seven-year run, Aurorans have amassed more than $660,000 for cancer re-search.


Phone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3155