By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MONTROSE, MN They’ve all lost their mothers to cancer, but the three new chairs for Delano’s Relay for Life aren’t giving up the fight.
“So many people have been where we are,” said Delano native Sarah Schumacher. “We want to help and encourage other people.”
Schumacher, along with Montrose residents Michelle Otto and Nicole Kimball, are passionate about the Relay for Life, a family-friendly event that raises money for the American Cancer Society.
A Relay for Life kickoff meeting will take place at Light of Christ Church in Delano Thursday, March 22 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
“Whether you are leading a team, on a team, are thinking about joining a team, or just want to hear more about the event, we welcome you to come to this meeting,” Schumacher noted.
Relay for Life 2012
The Relay for Life is set for Friday, July 27 and Saturday, July 28 at Delano City Park.
During the overnight event, the public is encouraged to stop by for food, games, walking, and socializing.
“A lot of people don’t realize it’s a community event,” Otto said. “They think you have to have a team.”
Kimball’s first Relay for Life experience was four years ago, as a vendor.
“I just thought I was going to a craft fair,” she said. “But, when I got there, I was like, ‘this is amazing.’ You can’t really understand it until you go.”
Kimball and Schumacher met when they were fifth-graders at Delano Middle School. At that time, neither could have imagined the effect that cancer would have on their lives.
Kimball’s mother was 47 years old when she was diagnosed with metastatic small-bowel adenocarcinoma, an extremely rare form of cancer.
Eight years ago, at age 49, she passed away.
“It hurts to talk about it, but it also makes it better,” Kimball said.
Her grandmother also died of cancer, at age 57.
“It could be generational,” Kimball said.
A family history
Cancer also runs in Schumacher’s family.
Her mother, Dorothy Brust, passed away in November 2003, at the age of 55.
By the time doctors found the tumor in Brust’s kidney, it was the size of a Nerf football, according to Schumacher. Brust underwent surgery New Year’s Eve in 2002 to remove her kidney and parts of her spleen and liver, but by August of 2003, the cancer had spread uncontrollably.
Otto’s family has dealt with several types of cancer.
Her father, for example, had prostate cancer 10 years ago, and is now fighting lung cancer.
Otto’s mother passed away from lung cancer in June of 2008, at age 65.
Otto, Schumacher, and Kimball all focus on cancer prevention in their own lives.
“Like anything, diet and fitness are important,” Kimball said. “If you’re healthier all-around, you’ll be able to fight better.”
Kimball added that her grandfathers were both heavy smokers, and both died of lung cancer.
According to Schumacher, the Humphrey Cancer Center (located in the outpatient center on the Robbinsdale North Memorial campus) offers resources for people with strong family histories of cancer.
“They go through your whole family tree,” she said.
Because Schumacher’s grandfather and great-grandfather both died of colon cancer, and one of her mother’s siblings also had it, she’s been advised to start getting colonoscopy tests at an earlier age than normal.
Although it may not be fun thinking about cancer, “it’s definitely better to know,” according to Schumacher.
New relay goals
Lynn Bartels and Ann Hayes had been the Delano Relay for Life co-chairs, but decided to step down this year to make more time for their children’s activities.
“Lynn and Ann did a phenomenal job the past seven years,” Kimball said.
“We realize we have huge shoes to fill,” Schumacher added.
Last year, the event had 37 teams, 55 registered survivors, and raised $93,516.
“Our goal is to have our largest fundraiser so far,” Schumacher said.
Their goal of $106,000 is just above the record 2010 amount of $105,621.
New to this year’s closing ceremony is “Messages to Heaven.” For a $4 donation, participants can release a balloon with a message to honor a survivor, or in memory of a loved one.
Although the relay isn’t until July 27-28, the excitement will start a few weeks earlier.
Friday, July 13, a special dinner for cancer survivors will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Delano American Legion. The dinner, which is being donated by R & B Restaurant in Watertown, is free for cancer survivors and a guest.
After the dinner, the general public is invited to a “city of hope” lighting ceremony.
In the two weeks leading up to the relay, businesses are encouraged to participate in a “paint the town purple” contest, by adorning their buildings with purple lights, signs, and other purple decorations.
The oversized chicken at Flippin’ Bills on the corner of Highway 12 and County Line Road, for example, will be wearing a 10XL Delano Relay for Life t-shirt.
“The winner will receive breakfast for up to 20 employees, and will be honored at the Relay for Life ceremony verbally, and in the bulletin, as the ‘business of hope,’” Schumacher said.
An honorary survivor and honorary caregiver are also recognized at the Relay for Life.
According to Schumacher, a caregiver is defined as anyone who cares for someone fighting cancer, whether it’s driving them to treatments, cooking meals for their families, visiting them, or helping in other ways.
At the relay, survivors wear purple, and all other participants wear white. Last year, caregivers wore gray, but that changes from year to year.
The tri-chairs are looking for organizations and other volunteers who would be willing to help with any part of the event, such as registration, planning the survivor dinner, leading a subcommittee, and more.
“It would also be really nice to have a big group come in and help us clean up the park afterward,” Schumacher said. “That would be huge.”
If anyone would like to volunteer, has questions about the event, or knows of a cancer survivor who would like an invitation to the survivor dinner, they can contact any of the tri-chairs:
• Sarah Schumacher (763) 442-4457, firstname.lastname@example.org
• Nicole Kimball (612) 532-9603, email@example.com
• Michelle Otto (763) 412-7557, firstname.lastname@example.org
More information is also available on the Delano Relay for Life website.