'Lucky 13' celebrated at Relay for Life
By Nicholle Brokke Special Correspondent It was a lucky thirteenth year for East Otter Tail Relay for Life this past Friday the 13th. People don't expect much luck on a Friday the 13th, but fortune smiled down on the survivors and volunteers who ...
By Nicholle Brokke
It was a lucky thirteenth year for East Otter Tail Relay for Life this past Friday the 13th.
People don't expect much luck on a Friday the 13th, but fortune smiled down on the survivors and volunteers who turned out to celebrate another night of hope and raised around $81,000 for cancer research. Despite the looming dark clouds overhead, crowds at Ted Meinhover field only suffered from a few light drizzles while other areas of town experienced heavy downpours.
Nothing could dampen the messages of hope cancer survivors and their loved ones shared over the evening.
Chair Lisa Peterson's prediction of a successful evening was backed by the progress of team fundraising. Thirty-two teams worked towards reaching the $75,000 goal this year. The event had reached 80 percent of its mark by Bank Night on Tuesday. On Monday, Peterson reported that this year's Relay had raised around $81,000.
This year offered several new activities. A cake walk, bingo, and a poker lap, where walkers collected a card each lap to try to form a winning hand of poker, were some of the activities held on the hour from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m.
"Those are new things that are going to encourage people to come here and stay through the night," Peterson said.
Peterson also hopes that the activities will help keep teams awake through the night.
Another new thing this year is recognizing caregivers of cancer patients.
"We thought it would be a nice gesture to recognize them as well this year," said Robianne Schultz, Relay committee member.
Peterson started the ceremony off by calling up individuals who were testimonies to the event's continuing success. Better treatments and new cures, improved help for cancer patients, programs to promote awareness and early detection, and the personal zeal people are using to fight all encouraged the crowd to continue striving for a cure.
Boostering the message of hope were honorary co-chairs, Reuben and Bernice Anderson and Bill Parks. Bernice shared with crowds how support networks and treatment have improved in the 17 years since she had cancer and kept it a secret from others.
Reuben told the crowd about the treatment that left him very weak before he started the road to recovery. He was so feeble that he could not turn the key in the ignition of his pick up truck.
"They had to almost kill me in order to save me," he said.
Honorary co-chair Bill Parks was a striking example of a fighter, vowing that he would 'beat' his cancer. Parks was encouraged by all the work the community has done to assist in the fight.
"It is just another wedge in the big pie of what we're going to do to make this work," Bill Parks told the crowd on Friday evening.
The strong support from the community was praised by a number of participants, including Relay committee members and former honorary co-chairs Leroy and Ruth Wegscheid.
"We've never been turned down," Ruth said of the community.
Peterson also praised the efforts of the community. Local businesses including Thumper Pond, Zorbaz, Main Street Express, Massages by Janel, and Nails by Jen, also contributed by supplying prizes in the drawing for team members. She was particularly overwhelmed by the amount of volunteers that had shown up to set up luminaries before the event.
"It's really going to be a good one," Peterson declared at the beginning of the evening.
The eleven teams that raised enough funds to receive gold, silver or bronze statuses, as well as the other hard working teams that worked towards the $75,000 mark, demonstrated this assertion. The School Team raised enough to be a gold team, the Perham Hospital and Home and the Vergas State Bank teams were silver, and the St. Lawrence Team, Trinity Bells, Perham Area Co-op Creamery, the United Community Bank, Farmer State Bank, the Ottertail Otters, Primera and Calvary Lutheran Church teams were seven bronze teams.
However, the real heroes of the evening were the 65 survivors that were there to walk the opening ceremony of the Relay, showing that cancer is not undefeatable and that hope can survive even when storm clouds and disease threaten it.