Life of a Loyal Volunteer
Will Be Honored at
Pink Lemonade 5K

Mount Prospect, IL – Sept. 14 – The 9th Annual Pink Lemonade 5K, benefitting Lemons of Love, will take place on Oct. 1 at Lions Park at 9 a.m. Each participant walks or runs in honor of someone they know who has been diagnosed with cancer. This year’s race is also in honor of Nikki Criel, a longtime Lemons of Love volunteer, who passed away suddenly on Christmas Eve last year.

Criel was one of the first committee chairs of the Pink Lemonade 5K and part of the event’s “pit crew,” a group of Harley Davidson motorcyclists who provide security, block off streets, and keep the runners safe among other tasks. Criel also was a realtor and recognized by many in the Mount Prospect community, leaving a lasting impression with her purple hair and purple nails. While Criel did not pass from cancer, her unexpected death at only 53 years old is a reminder of how quickly life can change. To honor her, racer t-shirts, volunteer t-shirts and the lemonade will all be colored purple this year. Racers are also encouraged to paint a strand of their hair purple to match Criel’s bright hair.

Based on previous years, Lemons of Love expects 1,000-1,500 people will attend the Pink Lemonade 5K. Proceeds raised from this event help Lemons of Love share love with those impacted by cancer through personalized care packages, free programs and ongoing support.

“The Pink Lemonade 5K is a fun way for us to interact with our community and raise money so we can keep helping cancer patients with our care packages,” said Jill Swanson, founder of Lemons of Love. “We are honoring our friend Nikki’s life this year. She had an infectious smile and such a giving spirit.”

There will also be a station for kids to draw “happy pictures” at the race. These pictures are used in the care packages that Lemons of Love delivers to cancer patients.

Lemons of Love was created in 2014 when Swanson was diagnosed with cancer. As she went through chemotherapy, Swanson realized the need for products that help with the side effects of cancer. Inspired by gifts a friend gave her, Swanson began her own project of finding helpful and thoughtful cancer care items, turning it into her own nonprofit organization called Lemons of Love.

Along with the happy pictures, the care packages include lemon drops that help eliminate the metal taste in patients’ mouths—a common side effect of chemotherapy—lotion, lip balm and water bottles to help with dehydration, a personal note from Swanson, and more.

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