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Passing the torch to Preston

Fri, Aug 6th, 2010
Posted in Arts & Culture

Left to right: Julie Pickett, Elizabeth Gatzke, Marilyn Schreier, and Roxanne Sabatke show their support for the 2010 Relay for Life event held in Wykoff, Minn., part of a collective movement that raised over $120,000 for cancer research. Photo by Gabby Gatzke

Wykoff has been the host of the Fillmore County Relay for Life for the past two years. However, Saturday morning the torch and duties were handed to Preston for the first time in fifteen years of the event's history in Fillmore County.

This year's core committee, consisting of Paul Frank, Gary Hahn, Brigid Eickhoff, Roxanne Sabatke, Sally Jeske, Denise Montgomery, Judy Frank and Mary Sackett are more than happy to be handing the torch to Preston after an amazing two years in Wykoff.

Elizabeth Gatzke of Preston and her co-chair, Julie Pickett, are excited and ready to start planning for the 2011 Relay for Life but know they have some big shoes to fill. This year the efforts of Fillmore County residents and businesses raised more than $120,000 for cancer research, setting the bar high for the Preston committee. The idea of a less populated county, like Fillmore County, raising more than even $50,000 is pretty incredible.

After being approached several months ago by this year's president, Gary Hahn, Gatzke was a little hesitant as to how she would gather enough people for a core committee. Much to her surprise, people like Pickett have been volunteering and jumping aboard ever since the idea was passed around.

As far as Gatzke's motivation to head a large event, along with Pickett, "There was no reason for me not to do this. After having a mother survive breast cancer and several family members who lost the battle to cancer, I couldn't say no," Gatzke said.

Gatzke, the owner of Chic's Pizza in Preston, said her customers also had a lot to do with it. "Looking around at my customers also motivated me to say yes. I can look out in the morning and see almost a table full of cancer survivors," Gatzke said. "And if I counted all the customers I have lost to cancer ,it's unbelievable and heartbreaking."

Next year's events will take place at the Fillmore County Fairgrounds on July 29, 2011.

According to the American Cancer Society website, Relay for Life started in Tacoma, Washington, as the City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer. The ACS Relay For Life is a life-changing event that gives everyone in communities across the globe a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease.

At Relay, teams of people camp out at a local high school, park, or fairground and take turns walking or running around a track or path. Each team is asked to have a representative on the track at all times during the event. Because cancer never sleeps, Relays are overnight events up to 24 hours in length.

Gatzke and Pickett encourage people to start teams for next year's Relay for Life as soon as possible. Most teams fundraise year round. If you would like more information on Relay for Life check out www.relayforlife.org.

A poem that was read by Roxanne Sabatke at the breakfast in Wykoff Saturday morning, was written by a cancer survivor. This poem is read at several Relay for Life events across the United States.

I walked around a track today:

I walked to help a disease go away.

I walked because there is a need.

I walked that bodies could be freed.

I walked to give a small child hope:

I walked to help someone cope.

I walked for a husband or a wife;

I walked to help prolong a life.

I walked with my head held high;

I walked for that one about to die.

I walked excitedly not demure;

I walked to help find a cure.

I walked for everyone to see;

I walked for you, I walked for me.

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