Relay for Life chair Linda Baier, left, tries to compose herself as Sarah Finley announces Baier will be leaving the position Saturday night during the Mower County Relay for Life. -- Photos by Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com
Relay for Life chair Linda Baier, left, tries to compose herself as Sarah Finley announces Baier will be leaving the position Saturday night during the Mower County Relay for Life. -- Photos by Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

‘Going to be missed’; Baier serves final year as Relay for Life event chair

Published 11:02am Monday, July 28, 2014

After 14 years, Linda Baier served her final Relay for Life as event chair Saturday.

“It’s just time for somebody new to take over, maybe get some new ideas and progress it into the future,” Baier said.

Although it was not easy, Baier decided to step down last week and the decision was announced to volunteers last week and again during Saturday’s opening ceremony.

It was an emotional moment, as Baier and Relay for Life Specialist Sarah Finley teared up during the announcement.

Baier described her last year as bittersweet. She has gotten to know many of the survivors and teams over the years and said will miss working with them.

“Over 14 years, you lose a lot of people, but there’s still a lot of people that are fighting for their lives every day,” Baier said. “Every year that I see them just reassures that what I’m doing is making a difference.”

Survivors release their balloons following the Survivors Walk Saturday night during the annual Mower County Relay for Life.
Survivors release their balloons following the Survivors Walk Saturday night during the annual Mower County Relay for Life.

Baier started with Relay for Life in 1998 as a volunteer after her aunt passed away, and her mother was a cancer survivor. Two years later she took over as the chair.

During the opening ceremony Saturday, Finley announced the relay raised more than $1.1 million for the 14 years Baier served as chair. She worked as the chair on her own for many years.

“It was an opportunity for me to fight back against cancer,” she said.

One reason Baier is stepping down is the time commitment heading Relay for Life.

“It’s a lot of work for one person,” Baier said.

Julie Lange, who was on the Relay for Life committee with Baier for eight years, said she is sad to see her go.

“I think she’s been a huge asset to the county, because she has really put forth a lot of time and effort along the years,” Lange said. “I think she’s really going to be missed, she’s done a wonderful job.”

Lange was impressed by all Baier accomplished as the event chair.

“She’s a very caring person, and she’s always willing to go above and beyond when it comes to anything with the Relay for Life,” Lange said. “Not many people would be able to do what she’s done for as many years as she has.”

Over the years, Baier has purchased and personally owns many items used during the fundraiser, such as tables and chairs.

“I’ve got a storage trailer that it all goes into, it’s just that much stuff,” she said. “I would imagine I’m going to downsize but I really haven’t decided how I’m going to do that yet.”

Baier hopes to have more free time to do things in her personal life after her last year. She recently joined the board of the Austin Artist Series and recently bought a house. She also anticipates getting a part-time job.

“Being so involved with Relay I really don’t have the time for that now,” she said.

Though she is leaving the position, Baier still plans to help out.

“I anticipate that I will probably work pretty closely with the new event chair to help them through the process,” Baier said.

She recalled her start as the chair years ago, getting handed a small box of information that was mostly useless.

“I basically just started with nothing,” Baier said. “I will always remember that, and that’s not something I want to happen to the Relay. I want it to continue to succeed, so I will do whatever I can to help those people who step up and take over.”

There are no candidates for the position as of yet.

Even though her time as chair for Relay for Life is ending, she is not finished fighting cancer.

“My focus on cancer is not going to waiver,” Baier said.

She is a member of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, which is a non-partisan group that works with and alongside legislatures to help get medical bills passed in relation to cancer. Baier has been a member for four or five years, but she hopes to get more involved now that she will have more time.

“I’m not walking away from the cancer work, but I’m just going in a different direction,” Baier said. “I still continue to think that what we do really is a benefit to the community and to the cancer survivors and [I’m] hoping that can continue.”

Mower County Relay for Life Honorary Chair Kelly Joseph leads the Survivor's Walk Saturday night at Bandshell Park.
Mower County Relay for Life Honorary Chair Kelly Joseph leads the Survivor’s Walk Saturday night at Bandshell Park.

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