Relay for Life Finds Grass Roots Support

Bill Gundlach is this year's winner of the Community Service Award from the Professional Lawn Care Association of America (PLCAA). Gundlach has owned Spring-Green Lawn Care for over 25 years in Cicero, Ill. For the past five years Gundlach and his company have been one of the sponsors for the local Relay for Life event that benefits the American Cancer Society.

Because of Gundlach’s participation in this event, PLCAA felt he deserved the award. When representatives for the charity first came to the Cicero Spring-Green offices in 1998, Gundlach’s long time receptionist Gayle Nett, a cancer survivor, greeted them. “We were all very aware of the need for the charity because of Gale,” Gundlach says. So when the ACS representatives came cold calling for this new event called Relay For Life, Spring-Green signed up right away.

“At first it was just going to be a few employees participating but then we decided to have our own team. More employees started to come out to the event and bring their families,” Gundlach explains. The relay itself is an all-night event where teams of 10 must have one member walking on a determined path at all times. Along the nighttime course are luminaries with the name of a cancer survivor on each one. Teams raise money by selling these luminaries to friends and families of cancer victims and survivors.

At sunset before the event begins, the names on every luminary are read at a special ceremony. Through the night, teams keep a member on the track while the others either catch some sleep or eat a snack. It’s a festive atmosphere despite the serious nature of the cause. In it’s short history the Relay has spread to other neighboring towns but the West Cook Relay remains one of the largest, raising close to $200,000 during last year’s event.

Gundlach inserts a flier in each mailer his company sends out for spring services. “It’s our most popular application and our clients really respond,” Gundlach says. Last year the company came in third place, raising around $7,000 and is always looking to improve their numbers from year to year.

The often-overused phrase “giving back to the community” seems to have come to the Spring Green office quite naturally for Gundlach. “Besides the fact that they’re (the local offices of the American Cancer Society) right down the street, helping with the Relay just seemed like a natural thing for us to do. It was just something we thought we should do.”

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