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Relay for Life "Birthday Party" starts with cancer survivor's dinner

The fifteenth birthday of our American Cancer Society's local Relay for Life begins with the ninth annual Cancer Survivor's Banquet at Mulligan's, Monday, July 6. It's an evening celebrating hope, including awards, inspiring messages, song and fellowship. It begins with a social at 5:30 p.m,, with dinner at 6 - the program will follow. The dinner, sponsored by KLN Enterprises, is free to all cancer survivors, including those presently under treatment. For caregivers and others who wish to attend, the only cost is the price of the dinner, which is $11. "Invitations have been sent, but if we missed you, call us and reserve your place," says Survivor's Committee member LeRoy Wegscheid. "Call Ruth and me at 367-2577 or Judy Kunza at 346-4714. We need to know by the end of the day, July 2."

This birthday culminates with the Relay itself on Friday, July 10, beginning at 5:30 p.m. This also coincides with the 25th anniversary of the world's first Relay. "So we can do this properly, birthday cake is available at the 'Old Faithfuls' campsite," Relay chairperson Lisa Peterson informs. "The Relay is organized around the American Cancer Society's theme, "Celebrate! Remember! Fight Back!" We begin to Celebrate with the games, concessions, decorations, massages and haircuts, car rides and more. Then we celebrate survivorship with the Survivor's Lap at 7. We remember at 9 with the speeches by our honorary Co-chairs and the lighting of the luminaries which light the track. At 11, we begin the Fight Back segment of the Relay - a stage that goes on throughout the year. By the way, the night stays lively, with teams walking throughout the night, with games and activities each hour to entertain us.

The committee has designed a great program for the Survivors' Banquet. Instead of one featured speaker, we will meet two related speakers, each with an inspiring message. A young woman, a survivor of an early cancer, will tell her story. Her caregiver, her mother, will retell her daughter's story - but through a mother's eyes. The mother, Therese (Kawlewski) Lachowitzer, grew up in the Perham/Ottertail area. She now lives in Hoffman and is a mother of 6. Her daughter Anne was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor in January, 2002, when she was in the sixth grade. A 12 hour surgery to remove the tumor, four weeks of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation followed. She has been cancer free since July, 2002. Hers is a story of healing and hope - even serious cancers can be successfully treated and be followed by a normal productive life. Anne (Kawlewski) Dahlseng is working at getting through college. She also was married just two weeks ago!

The dinner also gives our local American Cancer Society a chance to recognize those who have given exemplary service in the battle against cancer. Last year our Special Recognition Award was given to the Perham Enterprise-Bulletin for its ongoing complete, extensive coverage of our event. This year, two area businesses share the award. Photo Magic of Perham has provided portraits of all Honorary Co-chairs since the inception of the Relay; they have done team pictures and the survivors' group picture when asked. The other, equally deserving recipient is Precision Printers of Detroit Lakes. They have generously contributed Survivor's Banquet invitations, programs and other printed material for our Relay.

Each year, the Relay Organizing Committee chooses an "Employer of the Year." This year this award is shared by two very deserving entities: Arvig Communications Systems and Perham Memorial Hospital and Home. ACS was nominated by employee Josie Winkels, whose cancer struggle was made easier by the kindness and understanding of her employer. She will present the award - and the story behind it - at the Banquet. Similar consideration, adjustment to work hours, and emotional support caused PMHH nurse Mary Mayer to nominate her employer; her son had a camcerous brain tumor removed and was hospitalized in Texas. They adjusted her work schedule, and allowed time from her job to be with her son.

Join us at the dinner. Come early to the Relay on Friday, July 10. Help your American Cancer Society by purchasing luminaries from any team member. Support team fundraisers. The money that they earn supports our year 'round projects. The luminaries, which light the track, establish an atmosphere and add solemn beauty to this annual event. The party begins at 5:30. The many American Cancer Society volunteers who hope to see you there.