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‘Armed with hope, to finish the fight’: Relay for Life is July 11

At the 2013 relay, teams raised upwards of $70,000 for the American Cancer Society to promote research, education, advocacy and patient services. This year, their goal is to reach at least $90,000. FOCUS file photo

For the 19th year, teams will don purple, walk all night and make their mark on the fight against cancer.

The East Otter Tail County Relay for Life will be held Friday, July 11 at the Perham High School track. Community members are invited and encouraged to attend.

At the 2013 relay, teams raised upwards of $70,000 for the American Cancer Society to promote research, education, advocacy and patient services. This year, their goal is to reach at least $90,000.

“We’ve been about there the last few years,” said Lisa Peterson, the event’s chairperson. “It should be a realistic goal, but it will make us stretch a little bit.”

For many participants, the relay lasts longer than just the one night.

It all begins on July 5, with “Paint the Town Purple.” Businesses across Perham will decorate with purple to support cancer awareness and remind patrons of the upcoming relay. Volunteers will also decorate the downtown area throughout the week.

On Monday, July 7, Relay Week will continue at Wild Oaks restaurant with the Survivor’s Dinner. The meal is free to all cancer survivors as well as anyone who has been recently diagnosed or is undergoing treatment. Caregivers and the public are also invited to the event, for the cost of the dinner.

 A social hour will begin at 5:30 p.m., with dinner served at 6:30. Introduction of the honorary co-chairpersons, Lisa Preuss and Stefanie Hurt, awards and a speaker will also be part of the dinner’s program.

Tuesday, July 8 will be Bank Night. Team captains will bring the money they have collected thus far and announce their in-progress totals.

Finally, on Friday, the relay itself will take place. There is no admission fee. Activities will begin at 5:30 p.m. with classic car rides, haircuts, chair massages, concessions and more. All funds raised through these offerings will go directly to the relay.

There will also be a silent auction that will include a “discovery flight” from Wings Flight Training. New this year will be a kids’ table of lower-priced auction items. Also on the auction will be an evening for two in the Twin Cities, complete with a private flight from Perham to Minneapolis and back, limo transportation, a night at Marriott City Center and dinner at Murray’s Steakhouse.

“This would be a great way to celebrate an anniversary, a special birthday, a Christmas gift – a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience,” event organizer Ron Anderson said to the Focus.

The silent auction will run from 5:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. Item winners will be able to pay for their purchase with a credit card.

In addition, many team campsites will have their own food and game offerings, said Peterson.

“There’s a lot of fun stuff,” he said. “It’s a night for all ages.”

“One thing that will be new this year are ‘team challenges’ that will take place at random times,” said Peterson. “One team can challenge another, and the team that challenges or refuses a challenge has to ‘pay.’  Challenges will be announced over the microphone. It could get very competitive and very fun!”

An opening ceremony will begin at 7 p.m. All other activities will pause in order to honor cancer survivors as they take the first lap of the night. Names of the survivors will be read as the group makes its way around the track. It will be at this time when the honorary relay co-chairs will speak.

After the ceremony, activities will resume until the luminary ceremony at 9:15 p.m.

Luminaries can be purchased in advance or the night of the relay and be dedicated to a loved one who has fought cancer.

The Fight Back Ceremony, which focuses on education and advocacy, will be at 10:30 p.m. Members of the 23 teams will continue to walk and compete in activities throughout the night until the closing ceremony at 6 a.m. on Saturday.

Call Lisa Peterson at 218-346-4747 or visit for more information. Survivors who did not receive an invitation to the dinner may get on the list by contacting Ruth or LeRoy Wegscheid at 218-367-2571.


Lisa Preuss of New York Mills and Stefanie Hurt of Perham will represent cancer survivors at the 2014 East Otter Tail County Relay for Life.

Lisa Preuss

Lisa Preuss’s cancer story is one of awareness, quick response and the support of a loving family and community

Lisa recalled not feeling well and noticing swollen glands. A biopsy led to Lisa’s breast cancer being diagnosed on April 3, 2012. She had surgery on April 16, went through eight sessions of chemotherapy and then daily radiation treatments for six weeks. By October, she was cancer-free.

Lisa’s family and community helped her recovery tremendously. In addition to working, her husband, Jeff, did household chores, watched their two young children and often took her to Fargo for treatment. Lisa’s parents were always there. Members of Lisa’s church brought meals, friends took turns taking her to treatments, and the school volleyball team even raised the funds to cover her insurance deductible.

After she was declared cancer-free, friends organized a celebration. Donations came in from local businesses, but since insurance met her treatment costs, Lisa donated the money to “Bras on Broadway,” a Fargo-based breast cancer charity.

If there is such a thing as a happy cancer story, Lisa Preuss’s is it.

Stefanie Hurt

Cancer is a cruel teacher.  It doesn’t discriminate by age or what is “fair.” Cancer makes people hurt and saps their energy, strength and innocence.

Stefanie Hurt learned these lessons personally through her battle with cancer. At the same time, through that fight, she decided to strike back and help others find the courage and will to sustain the fight. She created a non-profit organization called WINK (Women In Need of Kindness) to help those who are facing cancer find joy, a sense of worth and the realization that there are people who care.

Cancer entered Stefanie’s life when she was 24. Her son was less than a month old and her father had recently received a terminal cancer diagnosis.  A lump was found and she was frightened… It was an aggressive breast cancer that would require a long, painful treatment program.

She went through surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, both of which caused considerable pain and sapped her strength. However, her will to recover was stronger.

During her second journey through radiation, Stefanie started her non-profit.  WINK was officially a registered by the time she finished the series. 

Stefanie’s story is a tribute to human spirit, the will to help others and a lesson learned in compassion.