It was in June of 2005 that I was sent to the Nobles County Fairgrounds to cover the annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life event for the Daily Globe.
I’d covered relays before in Redwood County, and had first learned of the event while my cousin’s little girl was battling cancer in the late 1990s.
Like so many people, I didn’t know much about the event and I didn’t feel compelled to get involved.
And then I met Toni Peterson.
At the Nobles County Relay for Life event in 2005, I interviewed Toni as she sat in the bleachers — a carnation in her hand and a cancer survivor ribbon attached to her shirt.
Toni was too weak to take her survivor walk around the track that night. She was in the midst of chemotherapy treatments and they were taking their toll.
So there we sat, talking about what the Relay for Life meant to her. She told me about her cancer, and when she was finished, we both were crying. I gave her a hug … something I can’t remember ever doing in the course of my job.
Toni got to me.
Less than six months later, Toni’s obituary appeared in this newspaper. It wasn’t until then that I learned she had a daughter … a daughter who was in my high school graduating class.
By the time the 2006 Nobles County Relay rolled around, I had forged a connection with the local Relay for Life (RFL) chairs to publicize the event, and in 2007, the Daily Globe was an official RFL team.
I served as co-chair of the team for the last three years, and have now stepped down, so to speak, in order to step up and be more involved on the county committee. Our team’s co-chairs, Cindy Ramert and Sheila Kluever, have each lost siblings to cancer.
You don’t have to know someone personally affected by cancer to become involved in Relay for Life. You just have to want to eliminate cancer.
Yes, it is as simple as that.
Last Friday and Saturday, I joined three of my fellow Nobles County Relay for Life county committee members at the first-ever American Cancer Society Midwest Division Leadership Summit. More than 600 people from Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin gathered to hear from top medical personnel, celebrate RFL achievements and be inspired. We also met Minnesota native and ACS Relay for Life founder, Dr. Gordy Klatt.
One of the main objectives of Relay for Life is to raise money to help in the fight against cancer. We raise money through the sale of luminaries for our local Relay, by asking for donations from individuals, businesses and corporations, and by doing team fundraising events.
Here at the Daily Globe, we have raised money by selling walking tacos, soup or chili dogs over lunch hour from time to time; paying $1 to wear blue jeans on Fridays; having a Penny War between departments; and hosting a “Kiss the Pig” contest at the Nobles County Fair. This fall, a few of us even helped budding vintners with their grape harvest in exchange for a donation to our Relay team.
We have managed to take something as depressing as cancer and find fun ways to make money to “Fight Back.”
The money we are raising is helping to save lives.Since 1946, ACS has spent more than $3.4 billion on cancer research in the United States. The organization continues to fund research at a rate of approximately $130 million each year. Over the years, 44 researchers who received ACS funds have gone on to earn the Nobel Prize — the highest accolade in scientific achievement.
Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the ACS, announced at the Leadership Summit that, since 1991, more than half a million people have survived cancer thanks to cancer screenings, early detection and aggressive treatments. In that same time, the death rate for pediatric cancers has been cut in half.
“Half of the kids who died from cancer in 1970 would be cured because of the technology we have today,” Brawley said in his presentation.
The ACS recently unveiled its new slogan, and it was a recurring theme at the Leadership Summit last week … ACS is the official sponsor of birthdays. The 11 million cancer survivors around the world today are proof that cancer research is helping people to live longer.
After celebrating the birthdays of my niece and nephew just the other night, I for one can say that I’m proud to do my part to ensure all people have an opportunity to celebrate more birthdays.
A world with more birthdays … a world where cancer is scarce … wouldn’t that be wonderful?