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Paynesville Press - April 28, 2004

Relay for Life to be held in Paynesville this June

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

This year, local residents will be able to participate in a Relay for Life right in Paynesville.

A Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, will be held on Friday, June 25, at the track at Paynesville Area High School.

The event, with teams taking turns walking throughout the night, is more than a fundraiser.

In addition to the fundraising, the event includes a survivor's walk for cancer survivors and, at dusk, a luminaria lighting ceremony, with paper luminarias representing cancer victims and survivors. Debbie Meagher, chair of the local committee, said she will consider the event a success if the stands are full for these ceremonies. "We do this for healing, to remember those who have died, and to support survivors," said Meagher.

She, like many Relay for Life volunteers and participants, has been touched by cancer. In 1995, her son Jacob died of cancer when he was just nine years old. Her father also died of the disease and her mother is a cancer survivor.

"This is just something I have to do," said Meagher of her involvement in Relay for Life.

Volunteering has been emotional for Meagher, but she does it to honor the memory of Jacob and her father and to honor her mother. She understands, though, that participating in the event may be too painful for some; she couldn't have participated right after Jacob's death, she said. She hopes that these people will come out for the ceremonies because they can help healing. "You don't feel alone (when participating in the event)," she said.

The American Cancer Society Relay for Life began in 1985 when a surgeon in Washington state ran and walked 81 miles in 24 hours, raising $27,000 for the organization. By 2001, the annual event had grown to include people from 3,800 U.S. communities and eight foreign countries.

In the past, Paynesville area residents participated in Relays for Life in other communities, including Willmar and Cold Spring, whose event raised about $80,000 for the American Cancer Society in 2003.

But with 34 teams participating in Cold Spring last year, the event was getting too large, and the American Cancer Society was eager to have another Relay for Life organized in Paynesville.

The local Relay for Life will start on Friday, June 25, and run throughout the night until Saturday, June 26. From 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. teams - with up to 15 people - will walk the track together to honor cancer victims, cancer survivors, and anyone touched by cancer.

The local Relay for Life is shaping up to be a very successful event, said Judy Granzow, who was asked to get involved with the Relay for Life because of her previous involvement with the American Cancer Society. She agreed and approached people she knew had been touched by cancer to form a local committee.

The local committee has spent the last several months organizing the event and recruiting teams and sponsors. Committee members are: Linda Athman, luminaria chair; Marlene Athman; Granzow, team recruitment chairman; Cindy Hess; Meagher, chair; Pat Reiman; Mary Spanier; Helen Storkamp, survivor walk chair; and Marcy Thompson.

Currently, 12 teams have signed up for the event. With a month remaining before the registration deadline, several more teams could participate, said Granzow, adding that the Paynesville Relay for Life Committee set a goal of having 10 to 14 teams this year.

Relay for Life teams, comprised by 10 to 15 people, raise money for the event by seeking sponsors, with each team encouraged to raise $10,000. Individuals who raise $100 earn a t-shirt and prizes will be awarded to those who raise more.

The suggested team entry fee is $150 (or $10 per team member). Some employers have paid the entry fees for their employee's teams, noted Granzow.

The deadline for entering a team in the event is Monday, May 24. A meeting of team captains will be held that day in the Blakely Room at the Paynesville Area Hospital at 7.p.m. Team members have until Monday, June 21, known as Bank Night, to gather donations.

During the event, civic organizations also will hold fundraisers. For instance, the Paynesville Lions Club will run a hamburger stand with the proceeds going to the American Cancer Society, and money will be raised by the sale of luminarias.

In addition, the local committee is seeking corporate sponsorships for the event.

Money raised during the Relay for Life will be used for cancer research, and for American Cancer Society programs, including cancer education and improving the quality of life for cancer victims and their families.

Volunteers for the event are still needed. Helpers for the ceremonies and the actual walk as well as individuals to do face painting, host games, and anything else that will make the event fun for the participants are being sought.

To enter a team, to volunteer, or to purchase a luminaria, call Meagher at 320-276-8211 or Granzow at 320-243-4744.

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