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Love Lights the Way at Relay for Life

Fri, Jul 19th, 2013
Posted in All Features

Taking registrations for the Survivor Tea are in back- Lavonne Mensink and Linda Marzolf. In front are Beth Ann Broadwater, Kathy Broadwater, and Charlene Mensink. Photo by Barb Jeffers

The Relay for Life of Fillmore County took place on Friday, July 12, 2013 beginning at 4pm and ended July 13, at 5am. The event took place in Harmony, Minn. with hundreds of people attending the very meaningful event.

The Relay for Life was held at the Community Center in Harmony, which worked perfectly for the many activities that took place. The kick-off began with a Survivor/Caregiver Tea. Emcee’s James Wilcox of KAAL-TV and Jay Masters welcomed everyone to the event and introduced Pastor Mary Waudby, Pastor at Scheie & Trinity Lutheran Churches, to give the opening blessing. Loretta Ascheman is a cancer survivor who traveled from Spring Valley, Minn., to enjoy the tea along with others from all around the area.

Speaker Chris Hanson, who began her battle with cancer in 2002, shared her story in a very interesting and humorous way during the Survivor Tea. Chris said she has learned to advocate for herself through her experience and added that she had participated in a drug trial and would do it again. Chris Hanson manages to put a positive spin on her medical issues by saying she has had good things happen. “There is hope for all of us walking the cancer trail giving inspiration to many in the audience,” Hanson said. She also thanked her husband and her son for being her caretakers. “Caretakers are heroes to us for always being there and offering encouragement.”

Chris then read a very special poem:

I Walked For You, I Walked For Me

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.

-Jackie Rutkovich

During the Survivor/Caregiver Tea a video was shown featuring individuals who have fought cancer and survived and loved ones who unfortunately did not. The video also included messages to loved ones and caregivers. Emotions ran deep during the playing of the video and seeing the faces of those who have experienced cancer and reading the heartfelt messages on the screen. For someone not personally knowing any of the people in the video, the heart still ached and the tears flowed as well, knowing the pain so many have been through and continue to fight through. The video, which was compiled by Gabby Gatzke, a member of the Relay for Life team Chic’s 4 Life, was set to poignant music and touched every person in the room.

A silent auction was held with tables stretched down a long hall and around the corner and more. The items were presented very nicely and there was a wide array of donations to the silent auction ranging from baskets of goodies, to children’s themed collections such as Barbie dolls to gift certificates. The amount of silent auction items shows just how many people join in the fight against cancer.

Friday was a bright, sunny day, which was perfect for all of the outside activities that occurred throughout the day and into the night. Children and adults had no shortage of things to do or people to talk to as the event was very well attended. Many shelters and recreational vehicles were placed alongside the track of the Relay housing Relay for Life teams. Several of these teams had articles available for purchase. One team, selling jewelry, was “Alex’s Angels,” which support Alex Scrabeck in his fight against Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Later in the evening there were campsite food sales sponsored by many teams.

Massages were offered by Julie Teslow and Toni Sikkink and many people took the chance to lay back, get a deep massage, and relax during a very busy day. An additional service available was haircuts by the professional team from Dacia’s on Main of Harmony, Minn. Rachel Glende, Fountain, Minn., got a haircut by Pam Brink, while her daughter, Ellie, got her haircut by Kathy Schmitt, to support Relay for Life and looked great with their locks trimmed.

An emotional and heartwarming Survivor Lap Ceremony was held followed by the Survivor Lap. Teams were recognized at this time with photos being taken by family and loved ones and the teams then took a lap together. According to event co-chair Sue Sikkink, “There were 30 teams and approximately 460 participants that signed up to join in the Relay.”

Dr. Svetomir Markovic, M.D., PHD., from the Mayo Clinic was a special speaker Friday evening. According to the Mayo Clinic website,, Dr. Markovic specializes in translational immunotherapeutic of cancer focused on malignant melanoma and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This work includes development and clinical testing of: cancer vaccines; immune boosting agents; novel agents that reconstitute immunity in patients with cancer; and combination therapy directed at enhancing anti-tumor immune responses” in hopes to find a cure for cancer.

The crowd was then entertained by The Pumper, The Peddler & The Politician a soft rock musical group which includes Rick Kritzer, Marty Buum, and former U.S. Representative Tim Penny.

Messages were written on balloons for loved ones and were released simultaneously in the Balloons to Heaven event which is another emotional moment for people at the Relay for Life. Writing a message to a loved one who has been lost and sending it to heaven can be quite a cathartic experience for many and is also a beautiful sight.

A live auction was held in addition to the silent auction. The live auction began at 8:15 with many wonderful items being taken home by happy winning bidders. A beautiful quilt with quotes such as “cancer cannot destroy peace” was one particularly meaningful item at the live auction.

Lighting of the luminaries is a very significant part of the Relay for Life as the overwhelming amount of luminaries that were placed in honor of or in memory of friends and family were lit which provided a glow around the relay track. Each luminary represents the love a person feels for someone who has battled or is battling cancer.

The activities were not finished for the night as a Heads & Tails game was started at 10:30 p.m. with the winner receiving a recliner donated by Drury’s of Fountain, Minn. The winner of the chair was Amy Franzen. Karaoke Joe took over the stage at eleven and had everyone singing and dancing the night away. If attendees did not get enough exercise dancing they could join in on zumba and then rest while playing bingo. Twelve hours after it began the Relay for Life Closing Ceremony was held at 4 am followed by a breakfast of pancakes and sausage.

Major sponsors for the event included Lanesboro Fire Department, Rushford State Bank, Poet, F & M Bank of Chatfield, Minn. and Preston, Minn., Minnesota Energy, Bluff Country Newspaper Group, Root River Hardwoods, Inc., First Southeast Bank of Harmony, Minn., and Canton, Minn., Major & Company, Morem Electric, Inc., and the City of Harmony. Paul and Judy Frank were major sponsors in memory of their fathers Clayton Frank and Art McCaulley. Additional major sponsors were in memory of Norvel Tranaas, Arlene Suttlemyre, and Randy Benson.

Many groups, teams, businesses, and individuals worked tirelessly to bring this year’s event together including Co-Chairs Sue Sikkink and Lavonne Mensink. Sue Sikkink stated that this year’s Relay for Life was fantastic with wonderful people helping out to make the event a success. The goal of the amount raised this year was $125,000 and according to Sue Sikkink as of right after the relay the amount was just over $112,000 with more still coming in, which is a tremendous amount. Sue said she is certainly hoping they meet their goal but even if that doesn’t happen, the amount raised is incredible.

Both Co-Chairs of the Relay for Life, Sikkink and Mensink are grateful for all of the help. “Thank you to everyone who took the initiative to step up and help with the Relay for Life,” Sikkink said. Next year’s Relay for Life will be held on July 11, 2014 in the same location. Fillmore County Relay for Life 2013 was a meaningful event full of fun activities but most of all it was an event filled with love.

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