Jones a baking machine for annual cancer walk

The oven at Cathy Jones’ house is on almost non-stop during the two days prior to the annual cancer walk in Rantoul. She makes many of the cakes for the cake walk.

RANTOUL — Cathy Jones takes the cakes ...

... From Lincoln to Rantoul.

Jones has made it her mission the last few years to bake a large number of cakes used in the cake walk at the Luke Remington I Made A Difference Cancer Walk in Rantoul. Forty of them, from cup cakes to sheet cakes.

Cathy Jones

CATHY JONES

Jones crams the baked goodies into her car and heads east to Rantoul, where her childhood friend, Jessica Holmes, organizes the annual cancer walk.

This year’s event is set from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, at the Rantoul Township High School football field.

Jones said she has known Holmes since early days when they were growing up in Havana, Ill.

“Jessie and I have been friends since we were in fourth grade,” Jones said. “I just never had the time to go to the cancer walk. She always talked about it.”

That all changed in 2016 after a close friend of hers died of pancreatic cancer. Jones, too, was diagnosed with cancer and was finishing up with chemotherapy when she decided to start baking the cakes for the cake walk, which has proved to be a big hit.

Daughter Victoria helps with the event, “and we have a wonderful time,” Jones said.

“We love doing that. It’s just fun to see the kids, and even the adults, doing the cake walk. They’re laughing and smiling, and it’s just wonderful to give them a cake.”

Jones said they have had a couple of police officers take part in the walk as well.

Jones’ oven is heated non-stop for about two days before the annual event. She estimated it takes 10 to 12 hours to bake them all.

“I work hard on them,” she said. “I bake them on Thursday and Friday before the event so they’re nice and fresh. I usually mix up the frosting Thursday and frost everything on Friday.”

She said transporting them is “the fun part.”

The back seat of her car lays down and “it’s packed full,” Jones said.

April Mclemore makes up the stepping circles — with artistry by her nieces — for the cake walk. The circles are pizza boards donated by Monicals Pizza.

“So many folks bake cakes, sweet bread, Rice Krispie treats and cheesecake to win,” Holmes said.

This marks the 12th year for the cancer walk in Rantoul. Last year was a soggy one, and the event was moved inside the high school. Holmes said that won’t be an option this year because homecoming activities will be going on at the school at that time.

“The walk has evolved over the years, but some items remain constant,” Holmes said. “We make the luminaries one by one in honor of or in memory of (loved ones). They are a testament to those who fought or are fighting the battle of cancer.”

In that first cancer walk, Rantoul firefighters joined in to grill free hot dogs that Walmart sponsored along with chips and cookies provided Eater Junior High School and the grade schools. The firefighters are back as well as the police department.

This year, Bank of Rantoul is sponsoring the water.

A Dum Dum tree is built by Michael C. Nelson. It holds Dum Dum suckers. Some of the suckers have a blue mark on them, which nets the recipient a prize.

New this year are sack races. Super heroes will be returning.

Items come from all over — from Maryland to Nevada to Rockford —  for the silent auction, which Holmes said continues to grow as businesses and individuals donate homemade items, products and gift certificates.

“Sharon Horsley makes a bear (for the silent auction),” Holmes said. “This year it’s an Elvis bear” — in keeping with the rock ‘n’ roll theme. “More specifically, Elvis.”

A special number will be performed with Michael Soltis as Elvis and Lisa Dewey Shields, Dora Johnson, Sandra Mortreet and Holmes as backup singers.

The Lutheran church and RTHS provide tables, and the high school helps to set up and take down the site. A poster for the event was designed by Richard Schmidt of Havana, and Credit Union 1 provided funds to have them printed.

Michael C. Nelson will provide the music.

“We are happy to say no funds donated are used for expenses,” Holmes said. “One hundred percent are donated to the local American Cancer Society and/or St. Judes. We rely on the generosity of individuals for donation of items.”

She said more than $40,000 has been raised at the walk in the first 11 years of the event.

This is a personal walk for many, Holmes said.

“Last year five of the in-honor luminaries are now in memory. It takes a village to bring this event together.”

dhinton@rantoulpress.com