The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

March 27, 2012

Benefit to help woman with cancer

Couple plans to renew vows

DANVILLE — Being surrounded by loving friends is good medicine for someone who’s struggling with illness.

With that in mind, the family of Sonia Hillsman hopes plenty of people turn out Saturday for an open house and benefit from 3-6 p.m. at the David S. Palmer Arena. At 4 p.m., Sonia and Ray Hillsman will renew their wedding vows, celebrating 40 years of marriage.

Sonia Hillsman has stage four lung cancer, and travels to Chicago for treatment once a week. She’s been doing better and expects to attend the benefit, said Eva Nelson, who is Ray’s sister.

Donations will be accepted to help with medical expenses. Ray works in maintenance at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System; Sonia is no longer able to work. She has held various jobs, including at Provena United Samaritans Medical Center and Danville School District 118.

If people can’t give a donation, Nelson said, then “come by and wish them well.”

There will be some food, and a range of music, including pop, religious and wedding.

Sandra Goings, who is Sonia’s sister, said The Mountain Tops, a group with Mount Olive Baptist Church, will perform, and there also will be a pianist.

The highlight will be renewal of the wedding vows. The couple has a strong relationship, Goings said, adding, “He’s really been there for her.”

Goings also has been by her sister’s side since Day 1.

“There’s nothing I can do at this point. It’s in God’s hands,” she said. “We try to keep God close and hang in there.”

However, it helps Sonia to see her friends.

“Any encouragement she gets, it helps,” Goings said, “and it helps us, too.”

When Sonia was working, Goings said, “She knew a lot of people and got along with everyone.”

Sonia and Ray have five children, all of Danville: Christopher, Benjamin, Demarcus, Joanna and Ray LaMar Hillsman. They also have 16 grandchildren, most of whom live in Danville, and they’re expected to sing at the benefit, too.

The family requests no gifts, just donations to help with medical expenses and cards to celebrate the couple’s anniversary.


An open house and benefit will be 3-6 p.m. Saturday at the David S. Palmer Arena for Sonia Hillsman, who has lung cancer. At 4 p.m., she and her husband, Ray, will renew their wedding vows.

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