Relay for Life brings in $24,724 and counting

Mille Lacs County’s Relay for Life walkathon was a rsounding success.

The event, held Friday, Aug. 3 and into Saturday morning at Princeton High School, raised $24,724 for the American Cancer Society (ACS).

Becky Cartwright, chair of the on-line service for the event, said that the amount raised will increase. People can still donate to it either at Spire Federal Credit Union in Princeton, or through the website, which is Relayforlife.org/MilleLacsMN.

The amount of money raised is down from previous years, but some of that likely had to do with four of the relay teams being new, Cartwright said.

The heart of the relay was the 11 teams made up of 121 individuals who raised pledge money. The teams were Christ Our Light Endurance, Hopeful Believers, Pentair Technical Products, Princeton Tigers, Tori’s Treasures, Yellow Screaming Ninja Fish, Fairview Foot Soldiers, Katie’s Miracle Milers, Princeton Girl Scout Troop 578, The Gun Slinger’s, and Walmart – Princeton.

Jamie Anderson, the publicity person for the event, said the Walmart group was organized by someone from Princeton who works at a Walmart store. It has been decided that there will be a Walmart team next year that will have members who will be part of  the Walmart store under construction on Princeton’s west side.

What was unique

Something unique about this year’s Relay for Life was that it was conducted inside. At least Anderson couldn’t recall it being inside before in her 20-year involvement with the event.

The reason for this year’s change was the threat of rain, and that did happen that evening. There were also winds with the rain, Anderson said, adding that she thought it worked out well being inside.

The actual walking was in the high school’s gymnasium, while the encampments for the teams, were along the corridor or the school commons. But a significant number of the activities did take place outside the school building, including a demo by school cheerleaders, kids games, and Friendly the Clown making balloon animals and clowning around.

People also had the option of eating the picnic food outside, and many did just outside the east entrance where the Lions Club did the grilling. The weather for that was calm and sunny.

Inside the school were other events including Avery’s Taekwondo students giving demonstrations, and the DJ, Rhythm Explosionz, which provided music from 6:30 p.m. until 6 a.m. when the event ended. The silent auction, with nearly 100 donated items, was laid out in the school’s cafeteria.

The opening ceremony began at 6 p.m. and lasted about a half hour, with the Legion Color Guard carrying flags and leading the cancer survivors group’s opening lap around the track laid out in the gym. The track was between the rows of 682 luminaries, or white paper bags that carry a name of someone involved with cancer past or present. The bags are usually decorated and are sold as part of the fundraising.

Because the luminaries were indoors they did not contain candles like they would have if outside. Strings of white holiday lights lit them up instead when the room was darkened for the lighting ceremony at 9:30 p.m.

Katrice Sisson, with the St. Cloud ACS community relations department gave opening remarks, and Princeton city Community Development Director Carie Fuhrman gave a welcoming talk.

The definition of a cancer survivor, according to Katie Rentschler, ACS community relations manager at the St. Cloud office, is still being alive after being diagnosed with cancer. That diagnoses could be as recent as within the last five minutes, she said, explaining that it is not to be confused with the phrase, cancer free. The latter is a medical term and means being without cancer for five years after having once been diagnosed with it. The cancer survivor definition, meanwhile, is from the ACS, Rentschler said.

There were some at the Relay for Life who said they wished the event could have been outside, but having it inside resulted in some benefits, not to mention being free of bad weather, according to Cartwright.

It meant not having to have a big tent for picnic dining, not having to haul in chairs and tables since the school had those, and it made for easier cleanup, Cartwright explained. Char Kramersmier, a presenter of the event with Jim Laskowski, said afterward that if it had been outside, the luminaries would have had sand ballasts and if they get rained on, they are a mess to clean up.

For many years the event has been conducted at the high school athletic track and last year it was in a school parking lot because of reconstruction of the track.

It really doesn’t matter where the Relay for Life is conducted, because it’s the people who make it, said Anderson. “I think this year was just tremendous as far as the people joining together to raise funds for the American Cancer Society,” she said. “It was a wonderful turnout.
Where the money is spent

Rentschler, at the St. Cloud ACS office, explained that the main way the Relay money is used, is for cancer research.

Other ways the money is used are cancer patient services, education, and advocacy regarding Legislative action. Patient services include transportation to and from medical appointments, wigs, and housing support. Education includes topics on early detection, screening, and healthy lifestyles.

Approximately 149 persons in Mille Lacs County and more than 27,000 in Minnnesota will be diagnosed with cancer this year, according to Rentschler. The statistics show an average of 75 cancer diagnoses per day, or three per hour in the state, she said.

As Fuhrman said in her welcoming remarks, it’s hard to find anyone who does not know someone close to them who has been involved with cancer.

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