By Julie Krienke
DELANO, MN To raise money for cancer research, to remember family and friends that have been lost, to support cancer survivors, and to promote a healthy lifestyle are just a few of the reasons Barb Merriman of Delano participates in Relay for Life.
Merriman is captain of the Delano Relay for Life team that was named honorary chair this year. Called the “Delano Not-so-Athletics,” the team’s slogan is “Shut out cancer.”
“I guess they chose us because we have been together since the beginning,” Merriman said. “With our eight members who are survivors, we are unique.”
This will be the six consecutive year that the relay has taken place in Delano, and Merriman’s team has been involved with Relay for Life since it began.
“It was a cooperative effort the first year we had it,” Merriman said. “We have done the relay as long as it has been in Delano.”
According to Merriman, it is the life-changing results of the relay that keeps her team together.
“We have been active year after year after year in this fight against cancer,” Merriman said. “Hopefully, it is having some results.”
With 18 team members, Merriman said that her team probably has the most members.
“At least five are in their 80s, and some in their 70s and 50s,” Merriman said. “Basically, we are the senior bunch when it comes to teams.”
Merriman found out that her team was named this year’s honorary chair through a team member, Jean Pilarski, who is on the committee. According to Merriman, the Delano Relay for Life committee decides who will receive this honor at a committee meeting.
“They work really hard,” Merriman said. “They start working on this in January. They do a fantastic job organizing and recruiting. It’s usually a double dose because they have their own teams, too.”
Winning honorary chair is quite a recognition as there are 44 teams and 365 participants in the Delano Relay for Life this year, according to the website. Merriman’s team will be recognized for its achievements.
“It is an honor because there are a lot of great teams and people,” Merriman said. “To be named honorary chair is a distinct honor when you have that many people in it.”
The eight survivors on Merriman’s team together have a total of 116 years as survivors.
“We’ve got some as long as 40 to 50 years as survivors, and some are still in treatment,” Merriman said. “So we’re a good bunch of people. They have been sticking with this through thick and thin. It is a commitment that we’ve stuck to.”
When it comes to the relationship between members of this team, it is clear that they share an unbreakable bond.
“We’re very supportive of one another,” Merriman said. “We’ve got a good crew of people. It’s a very cooperative effort.”
There is no doubt that the “Delano Not-so-Athletics” make the evening fun for everyone.
“We all have our own little party at the campsite,” Merriman joked. “We have a lot of fun. I think everyone else thinks we’re crazy.”
In the past, the team has had themes such as the Wizard of Oz and rock ‘n roll. Called the Ozmaniacs and GFWC Rockers, the team had slogans to “surrender cancer” and “walk and rock around the clock for a cure.”
This year, Merriman’s team decided to name themselves the “Delano Not-so-Athletics.” The theme of the campsite will be “survivor stadium.”
“At our campsite, we will have some money-making activities and things for people to do,” Merriman said. “We have always done grab bags, and we’re doing a Beanie Babie boutique.”
When it comes to the goals of the team, Merriman said that they simply want to raise a lot of money and have fun.
“Just make it so it’s an enjoyable event and that people see us, with our eight survivors, and know there is always hope,” Merriman said. “It is not a death sentence, with new treatment and research.”
Merriman became captain of her team the first year they participated in the relay.
“We didn’t have an election or anything,” Merriman joked. “It just kind of happened.
As team captain, Merriman plans the team campsite for the night of the relay. She also arranges team meetings and gets most of the information to team members.
The “Delano Not-so-Athletics” are excited for July 30, the night of the relay. According to Merriman, community members are invited to participate in the event even if they are not on a team.
“We’re just hoping everything goes well,” Merriman said. “That the Delano people can come down and see what we’re doing and visit the Relay for Life, walk the route and see how many lives cancer really has affected.”
According to Merriman, Relay for Life is a fun way to raise money for cancer research.
“In a town the size of Delano, it’s a very visible way to highlight the fight against cancer and the importance of the research,” Merriman said.
Merriman is hoping that there is a good turnout among citizens in Delano and the surrounding area this year.
“They can walk, whether they are on a team or not,” Merriman said. “The luminaries usually attract a lot of people.”
The sponsor of the “Delano Not-so-Athletics” is the General Federated Women’s Club (GFWC). According to Merriman, GFWC has sponsored their team for several years.
The Delano Relay for Life will take place at Delano City Park. The relay will begin July 30 at 4:30 p.m. and close July 31 at 6 a.m. The luminaries will be lit at 9 p.m.
Anyone is welcome to participate in the relay and help raise money for cancer research.
For more information about the Delano Relay for Life, visit www.RelayForLife.org/DelanoMN or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.