2017 Relay For Life effort tops $50,000

Special to the Star News
The sky looked threatening for a while, but the rain managed to slide around Lion John Weicht Park in Elk River last Saturday to grant a very nice day to the 2017 Relay For Life of Sherburne County Area. So far more than $50,000 has been raised and donations are still being accepted.

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Mike Garland, who took a break from his third big adventure in three years to raise awareness nationwide about the Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society, spoke about his experiences.

At the opening ceremony, the hope message was given by the 2017 Person of Hope, Laura Townsend. She is the president and founder of Albums of Hope. Her experience as primary caregiver for Brad, her late husband who lost his battle with cancer, allows her to understand the toll cancer takes on both patient and family members.

Albums of Hope began as a project in 2010 when Brad was fighting colorectal cancer. It began as a mission to feel helpful during a time when cancer patients and caregivers often feel helpless. After Brad lost his battle, Albums of Hope incorporated in 2011 to continue to lift the spirits of those battling cancer.

To date, Albums of Hope, in partnership with Creative Memories, has donated more than 9,000 pocket-sized albums of inspirational quotes and photos to cancer patients and their families. Everyone attending the event had the opportunity to make Albums of Hope for themselves or to share with others.

The 2017 honorary chair, Korey Faust, of Elk River, shared her survivor story at the 5 p.m. ceremony honoring all cancer survivors. Faust is a daughter, mother, friend and mentor who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in December 2014. At first she struggled with how to tell those closest to her. She also struggled with how to wrap herself around the diagnosis and surgery to remove the fast-growing tumor. Finally, she told her four boys and then her parents, before telling others.

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The 2017 honorary chair, Korey Faust, of Elk River, led the way on the Aug. 5 walk at Lion John Weicht Park with her mom at her side. She later shared her survivor story at a ceremony honoring all cancer survivors.

Faust’s surgery was right before Christmas in 2014, just days after her birthday. After the surgery, the wait began to hear what the biopsy results were going to reveal about the tumor. Faust and her entire support group know that one day her cancer will return.

Until that time, Faust takes one moment at a time and lives, laughs and loves with gusto, Townsend said in her talk. She said she also has put her faith in God alone above all else.

The final speaker of the day was Mike Garland, of Becker, who is canoeing 2,350 miles from Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico to raise money and awareness for Relay For Life. This is his third adventure in as many years, first biking from Becker to Oregon and back in 2015, then last year hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to the Canadian border.

He paused his canoe trip in Iowa when his wife picked him up to bring him back for the local Relay event, and he planned to be back on the Mississippi River in Iowa by Sunday afternoon.

Garland told fascinating stories of some of his narrow escapes, as well as some of the medical and health issues that have arisen during these adventures. Everyone can follow the rest of his canoe trip on his Facebook page at Mike+You=Cure.

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Mike Bray, a saddle maker from Monticello, displayed three of the commemorative saddles he has made. This one is called “Saddle of Hope.”

Mike Bray, a saddle maker from Monticello, displayed three of the commemorative saddles he has made and shared the story behind many of the carvings and items on the saddles. One was called “Tribute to the Troops” and another was called “Saddle of Hope,” which honors cancer survivors. The one he is currently working on is called “Honor the Badge,” a tribute to law enforcement officers. He will have that finished in time for the Minnesota State Fair. When completed, the saddle will have police badges from all 87 counties in Minnesota affixed to it. To see his story as shown on “Land of 10,000 Stories,” go to www.braysaddlery.com.

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Participants in this year’s Sherburne County area Relay For Life lit luminaries at night.

Throughout the day there were games and activities for kids of all ages. Food trucks sold popcorn, fries and cheese curds, and foods from hot dogs to puppy chow, Rice Krispie bars to cookies were available to buy at the campsites. Several teams had crafts or novelty items for sale, and there were many baskets on the silent auction. Proceeds from all of these sales were donated to the American Cancer Society.

Each year a highlight of the Relay is the lighting of the luminaria at sundown. Each white bag has written on it the name of a cancer survivor or a loved one who has lost his or her battle. As the teams lit the candles in the bags, they were led by bagpiper Mary Reuter. These candles lit the walking path until the closing of the Relay at midnight.

During the closing ceremony, awards were given out to the top fundraisers for 2017. Top Team medals were given to Mike+You=Cure Team, led by Missy Luethmers. They have raised over $8,440 so far. The top individual fundraiser was Duane Milless, who raised $5,286 for Team Crushing Cancers Butt. Altogether the 2017 Relay For Life of Sherburne County Area has raised more than $50,000 so far.

Donations to American Cancer Society will continue to be accepted by the teams for the rest of this month.