BILLINGS – Area schools fundraise for Relay for Life with Relay Recess and Battle of The Bridge.
The Relay for Life of Yellowstone County takes place Friday, July 12.
One fundraiser for the event that schools take part in is called Relay Recess.
What started with two teachers selling popcorn they made in their own kitchen has turned into something that this year raised close to $10,000 for cancer prevention and awareness.
Shepherd and Huntley Project engage in some friendly competition of fundraising for the Relay for Life called the Battle of The Bridge.
One young lady played a special part in Huntley’s Relay Recess.
Meet Riley. Her favorite color is pink, and she is a cancer survivor.
At age 3, doctors discovered a tumor on her spinal cord.
In the process of having it removed, Riley became a quadriplegic.
“The doctor said she’d probably never move her hands again. By that afternoon she was wiggling her fingers. I mean, she’s just a fighter and she’s so strong, and although her cancer did put her in a wheelchair that doesn’t define her she’s feisty as ever,” Riley’s mother, Jessica Knickerbocker, said.
She is now a sassy 1st grader at Huntley Project.
The relay recess lets students and teachers honor cancer survivors and fighters in their own BIG way.
“They released the balloons, that was her favorite part to watch the balloons go, they had popsicles and snacks and tattoos and music time, lots of fun stuff, she really did enjoy it,” Knickerbocker said.
Riley will not get to be on the track at the Relay.
“We won’t be able to go to the Relay for Life event this Friday, it was great that she got to do the Relay Recess,” Knickerbocker said.
“With Riley she had a spinal cord tumor so it kind of messed up her heating and cooling system so on a hot day like this we have to stay inside with the A.C.,” Knickerbocker said.
Riley’s classmates rallied around her, another student, and a beloved teacher named Iona who is also a survivor.
“Kids never stare,” Knickerbocker said, “We’ve had issues with adults doing it. Kids will just go up and be like, “Why are you in a wheelchair? And she’ll answer that ‘My wheels are my legs,’, and they’re like ‘Hey okay you want to come do this?’.
“She’s not judged by it, she’s not seen by her wheelchair for any means,” Knickerbocker said, “Her friends just love and adore her. It’s just great to see kids being kids,”.
What started as two teachers selling popcorn turned into something that this year raised close to $10,000 for cancer prevention and awareness.
“It’s something truly special, it gives you hope for the future, hope for a cure, and that’s really the reason we’re there,” Guinevere Ayers of the Relay for Life said.
Riley may not get to physically get to attend the track, but she will be the hearts of many on the track, and will have a luminaria with her name on it there.
“The luminaria ceremony is absolutely gorgeous, it’s twilight, you light the bags, and it’s just a special moment of reflection,” Ayers said, “Relay for Life really does give hope, so when we light those luminarias, it’s something truly special. It gives you hope for the future, hope for a cure, and that’s the reason we’re there.”
A day to honor, a day to remember, and a day to keep up the fight.
“Knowledge is power, so we’re always willing to share Riley’s story, and what we’ve gone through, what she’s gone through, and she really is a trooper, at one point we thought that she wouldn’t move her arms or talk because of her cancer, and she showed them all wrong,” Knickerbocker said.
“ Riley has a fire in her, her mom has a fire in her, and If we can have more people help light the world and help cure cancer, it makes everything worth it, every hour, every day, all the things leading up to Relay, in that moment it’s worth it,” Ayers said.
In the future, Riley plans to use her “Make A Wish” to visit the Disney princesses.
The winner of the “Battle of the Bridge” will be announced by the creators of “Relay Recess,” and Relay Grand Marshalls at 8:30 p.m.
Reporting by Jenny Fick for MTN News