Relay celebrates cancer survivors, supports those in the fight, remembers those lost
Published 10:28 am Monday, July 27, 2015
New digs, same purpose
The 23rd Mower County Relay for Life brought people together at a new location this year but for the same purpose.
The Relay for Life recognized cancer survivors and saw 15 teams walking laps Saturday evening into Sunday morning.
“We’re out here to celebrate the survivors, that’s the main reason we do Relay for Life,” Community Manager for the Southern Minnesota American Cancer Society Sarah Finley said. “So hope [people] can come out and help celebrate with us.”
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This year’s relay moved to the Mower County Fairgrounds this year to bring more space for the event.
“We can just see the camaraderie right away because the teams are all right next to each other instead of spread out,” Finley said. “It’s very, very cool to have it out here and open.”
Cancer survivor Melanie Miland liked the change and thought the organizers did well with the move, as well as putting together the event.
“Thank you to the organizers,” she said. “They just did tons and tons of work and they deserve a big thank you.”
Miland has participated in the Mower County Relay for Life for many years. For Miland, it’s about the support for cancer research.
“So there’s enough money to do more research and find a cure,” Miland said.
This year’s two honorary chairs were Elliana Leopold, 2, and Carter Simonson, 7. Elliana and her parents, Mandy and Tyler Leopold, spoke about Elliana’s diagnosis during the event. A big part of getting through the process was the support of the community.
“It was really important, the support of the community and everyone who said that they were praying for her and everyone who brought meals for us and supported us that way,” Mandy said.
They thanked everyone and said they look forward to helping others in the way people have cared for them.
“Everyone that has helped us has changed our hearts to want to help others in the same way,” Mandy said. “So we thank everyone for changing us in that way, and we look forward to the times that we get to help, that we get to bring a meal, that we get to care for someone in the way that our community cared for us.”
The event also showcased Robyn Reynolds, who won the Volunteer of the Year award. She was overwhelmed to receive the award, but honored. As the manager for Godfather’s Pizza, she has helped put on many fundraisers for cancer research.
“Anything that I can do to help, basically,” she said.
As they have for about five years, Connie and Garry Anderson traveled to their hometown of Austin from their current home in the Twin Cities for the Mower County Relay for Life to support friends and family and to remember those who have passed away.
Garry’s father passed away from pancreatic cancer, and Connie’s nephew Brad Huehn passed away with melanoma. Connie hopes the event will continue each year to help raise funds to cure cancer.
“I just think it’s a great fundraiser for cancer research,” she said.
“We have great friends that are survivors that come and do the walk,” she added. “And others who have passed away from it.”
Finley hoped the event gave people a chance to celebrate survivors and build as a community, along with creating a community-wide support group.
She said the move went well and the event will likely be at the fairgrounds next year as well. Finley announced three new organizers for next year’s event to take the place of former event leader Linda Baier, including Tonya Novak, Rodney Ryks and Angie Hughson.