By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN Where can people of all ages enjoy an evening of games, food, and friendship, while supporting a worthy cause?
Look no further than the Relay for Life at Delano Central Park, which starts at 4:30 p.m. Friday, July 29 and ends at 5 a.m. Saturday, July 30.
“It’s a family event,” co-chair Ann Hayes said. “You don’t have to be a walker to come down.”
From a dunk tank and caramel apples to Zumba fitness and “pin the cherry on the sundae,” this year’s relay teams have planned a night to remember.
“This is the seventh year we’ve done this, and it gets a little bit bigger and better every year,” Hayes said. “It always amazes me the amount of people we get.”
So far, 440 participants have signed up, excited to raise money for the American Cancer Society (ACS).
“Anyone and everyone” is welcome to stop by, according to Hayes.
The Delano Lions Club will be serving a pork chop dinner, starting at 4:30 p.m. Throughout the night, teams will provide all types of amusement, such as minnow racing, chair massages, musical chairs, mini donuts, movies, cow poke games, and hair braiding, to name a few.
From 5:30 until 6:45 p.m., a “Mr. Relay” competition will take place. Men wearing dresses and high heels will be out in the community collecting donations. The money will then be counted, and the man who raised the most will be crowned Mr. Relay. Any male who would like to participate can contact Hayes.
A game of Let’s Make a Deal will start at 6:30 p.m., followed by the opening ceremony at 7 p.m.
The featured speaker will be honorary survivor Betsy Elsen of Delano, who developed an extremely rare form of cancer in 2008.
Since then, 26-year-old Elsen has been dealing with severe pain on a daily basis, and has had to put her dreams on hold.
Before the cancer, Betsy had been working toward a social work graduate program at the University of St. Thomas and was doing an internship at Children’s Home Society and Family Services in the field of international adoption.
Each year, Delano’s Relay for Life event provides funding for the ACS, which has helped Elsen and countless others like her.
While spending six weeks in Rochester for radiation treatments, the ACS gave Elsen the opportunity to stay at the Sandra J. Schulz Hope Lodge free of charge.
“This home away from home was across the street from the clinic, and a caregiver was allowed to stay with me,” Elsen noted. “There would have been no possible way for me to stay in Rochester and receive the treatments without The Hope Lodge.”
Elsen said she’s also benefited from the ACS website, which provides detailed information regarding the types of cancer and treatment options.
The ACS also offers workshops, a toll-free information number, rides to chemotherapy treatments, a “look good, feel better” program, clinical trials, and research.
Sometimes people are confused about why the Delano’s Relay for Life money doesn’t stay in the community, but according to Hayes, the ACS is important because it has the means to assist a wide range of people.
“You’re not only helping people in Delano, but other places, as well,” Hayes said.
Elsen will kick off the walk after her speech. She will be the first one to carry a “torch of hope,” which will be passed to cancer survivors throughout the night.
Each person who holds the torch will tie a colored ribbon onto the handle.
“We’re hoping to have the whole torch filled up by the end of the night,” Hayes said.
Delano resident Bill Stevens will be the master of ceremonies for the evening, and pianist Kailyn Warne will provide musical entertainment.
Sarah Schumacher is the 2011 honorary caregiver for the relay. Schumacher lost her mother, Dorothy, to cancer in 2003. A year later, Schumacher started a craft fair called Dottie’s Cause in memory of her mother, which raises money for the ACS.
In June of this year, Schumacher lost another special person in her life to cancer her 43-year-old stepsister, Becky Brust Hokkanen.
Schumacher has been involved with the Delano Relay for Life since 2006.
The relay walk will feature a variety of themed laps, such as the “crazy hat lap,” the “red light, green light lap,” and the “poker lap.”
“People can walk as long or as little as they want,” Hayes said.
Raffle tickets will be on sale for $5, with the chance to win a 46-inch flat screen TV, an Explore Minnesota package with a three-night hotel stay, and a Dell mini notebook.
Luminarias are also available, for a suggested donation of $10.
Survivors and their friends and families can find support through the “share and care chapel,” furnished by Sarophia Consignment Shop of Delano. Visitors can share their stories or prayer requests, with the opportunity to enter an hourly drawing.
“Sometimes it’s hard for people to talk about cancer,” Hayes said. “This will be a comfy, cozy place for people to share.”
Hayes said she appreciates the vast amount of support the community has contributed to this year’s relay.
“It’ll be a great event,” she said. “We are the biggest relay in Wright County, and it’s all because we have good people.”
In case of inclement weather, the relay will take place indoors. Visitors should look for signs the day of the event, which will provide the location.
Volunteers are needed before, during, and after the relay. If anyone would like to help, or for more information about the relay, call Hayes at (612) 597-2399.