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Hope Lights Cancer Relay

500 community members walked to fight the disease Friday night at Buffalo Grove High School's Relay for Life.

More than 500 people gathered Friday night at for the American Cancer Society's annual , a 12-hour walk aimed at raising money to find a cure for the disease.

Camping out overnight on the infield of school’s football stadium, students from Buffalo Grove and high schools turned the track into a tent city as some walked all night while others played Frisbee and tossed around footballs and baseballs.

Danelle Laumeyer, staff partner with the American Cancer Society, said 60 teams from the two schools and local community groups registered for the event.

One of the youngest was 3-and-a-half-year-old Zachary Neukirch, who is a Relay for Life veteran, according to his mom.

“He has been coming since he was in my stomach,” said Ghida Neukirch, Buffalo Grove's deputy village manager, who walked with the village's team.

An emotional highlight of the event came at the start, when two young cancer survivors, , a Buffalo Grove High School graduate now attending Harper College, and Buffalo Grove senior Michelle O’Leary told the crowd what it was like to be diagnosed with cancer and about their fight to overcome the disease.

Kalaytowicz said that a simple pain in her shoulder led doctors to the discovery of “a tumor the size of a football.”

She and O’Leary credited the support of doctors and family members for their successful battles against the disease.

Perhaps the most moving part of the evening came when luminaria purchased by family members and friends in honor of cancer victims and survivors were placed around the track and lit in the darkened stadium.

As the teams of walkers surrounded the glowing bags and held hands, relatives of victims huddled close as they recalled their loved ones.

At the same time, volunteers lit luminaria placed in the stands to spell the word "Hope."

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