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EOT Relay for Life wins Community of Hope Award

Lisa Peterson, left, chairperson of East Otter Tail County’s Relay for Life, with, left to right: Lori Bachmann, staff partner with the American Cancer Society, and local Relay for Life committee members Dee Anderson, Robianne Schultz, Ruth Wegscheid and Ron Anderson. Submitted photo

East Otter Tail County’s Relay for Life has been honored with the 2013 Community of Hope Award by the Northern Minnesota American Cancer Society’s Midwest Division.

The award is presented annually to one Relay for Life community that “demonstrates the leadership, initiative and creativity to successfully implement mission-related activities that reduce the cancer burden and increase cancer awareness in their community,” according to a press release.

East Otter Tail Relay Chairperson, Lisa Peterson, accepted the award on behalf of the local teams at a Northern Minnesota American Cancer Society leadership conference recently held in Bemidji.

“We are honored,” she said in accepting the award. “This is truly a special award. It’s a testimony to our teams and their hard work, commitment and, most of all, their determination to contribute to winning the fight against cancer. I am so proud of them. So many of them have been with us every year since we began back in 1996.”

Lori Bachmann, a staff partner with the American Cancer Society, nominated the East Otter Tail Relay for the award. She praised the teams by saying, “These volunteers do a wonderful job of sharing the mission of the Relay for Life. Their ‘Paint the Town Purple’ campaign is exceptional. Their survivors’ dinner is not only the largest one around, but the most inspirational. Their relay night ceremonies creatively give meaning to our theme ‘Celebrating More Birthdays.’”

The annual survivor’s dinner, with its special recognitions, honorary co-chairs, inspirational speakers and other highlights, typically attracts about 150 attendees. The survivors’ lap that kicks off the annual relay, along with the traditional release of doves, lighting of 5,000 luminaries, hourly contests, activities and more, make the night of the relay especially memorable for participants.

The local relay is part of a winning fight against cancer. A century ago, when the American Cancer Society began, a diagnosis of cancer meant only a 12 percent chance of survival. Now, the survival rate has climbed to 70 percent, according to the release.

For years, the American Cancer Society has asked people to “Join the fight against cancer” as its slogan. This year, the slogan is changing to “Let’s finish the fight.”

Ruth Wegscheid, a survivors’ program chairperson and veteran of all 17 local relays, confirmed this, saying, “We’re here to the end – we will end the scourge of cancer. I look forward to making the 2014 East Otter Tail Relay for Life even better – and bigger.”

Those most closely involved with the East Otter Tail Relay say the commitment of the local teams is what makes it so successful.

“The only way we can make our event better is by having more teams join us,” said Peterson. “The more teams, the more fun we can have, and the more we can reach with our programs. Organizing a team isn’t tough – get a group together and join us. We need you to help us ‘finish the fight.’”