MUNSTER – Shelly Recktenwall is a caregiver. A special education teacher from Crown Point, she raised five of her own children before serving as a constant companion to a senior citizen in Munster. When she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in January of 2014, she was more determined than ever to continue to help others along her journey. She turned to the Community Cancer Research Foundation in Munster.
“They offered clinical trials and studies and I knew, in a heartbeat; I wanted to participate,” Recktenwall said. “I wanted to make a difference in other people’s lives. Breast cancer runs in my family. I knew I wasn’t going to make a difference now for my great aunt or my grandfather, but I could for my two granddaughters. I want to make sure the field moves forward and breast cancer isn’t so devastating for others down the road.”
For this selflessness, Recktenwall has been named as the guest of honor who will light the trees at the Lights of Life ceremony this year. The pink and lavender holiday lights will shine outside Community Hospital in Munster with the hope that a cure will be found for cancer.
For the past 16 years, holiday lights on the Lights of Life trees outside Community Hospital in Munster have been illuminated and serve as a reminder of the journey of hope that goes along with a cancer diagnosis. Each brilliant pink and lavender light on the Lights of Life trees represents a donation made to the Community Cancer Research Foundation, Inc. The Foundation supports important cancer research initiatives that improve the community’s access to the latest advances in prevention, detection and treatment of breast and other cancers.
Nearly 200 area residents gather in attendance as the pine trees – with lavender and pink lights – are illuminated in honor those touched by cancer. The pink trees represent those with breast cancer and the lavender trees symbolize all types of cancer.
Donors and their honorees are invited to the tree-lighting ceremony at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 7, at the Community Hospital Outpatient entrance off Columbia and Fisher Avenues. Anyone may participate and “purchase” a light for the Lights of Life trees to honor a special person in their life. Each light represents a $5 donation, which may be made to the Community Cancer Research Foundation. For a $15 donation, a pink breast cancer awareness pin, a lavender cancer awareness pin, or a Hope lapel cancer awareness pin can also be sent to honorees along with a gift card in addition to reserving a light.
Special musical entertainment will accompany the tree-lighting, including a performance by Mary K. Nigohosian. Nigohosian has participated in numerous shows at the Theatre at the Center in Munster. Her credits include: The Beverly Hillbillies: The Musical, Nice Work If you Can Get It; All Shook Up; A Christmas Memory as well as several of the Theatre for Young Audience performances (The Wizard of Oz, A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail and Santa’s Magic Toyshop). Having participated in the Lights of Life tree lighting ceremony last year, Nigohosian asked to be considered again for this year’s event to honor her sister, a cancer survivor. She will be performing Imagine the Impossible (Amber Sky Records).
The Lights of Life program began in 2000. To date, the Lights of Life program has raised more than $175,000 to bring cancer research programs to people in Northwest Indiana.
After the tree-lighting ceremony, all attendees are invited inside for refreshments following the program. Cards and pins will be sent out until Dec. 31. All donations to the program are tax deductible and are used to sponsor local research trials for area patients. For more information on this program, call 219-836-6875. Donations are also accepted online at: www.myccrf.com/lights_of_life.asp.