The Rice County Relay for Life raised a total of $106,042.56 so far despite threatening skies throughout Friday evening.  Thirteen teams participated in this year's effort on behalf of the American Cancer Society.  I say so far because there are still some funds to come in with the raffle for a doll house not over yet and some other dollars expected. Just a few sprinkles were felt throughout the night on the Rice County Fairgrounds. The three Honorary Co-Chairs each shared their stories with a conviction that drew laughter and a some tears.

Honorary Cancer Survivor Co-Chair Kay Kes spoke during the opening ceremony about her lifelong family fight with cancer.  Kes lost her son Jerry, former Relay Honorary Co-Chair, just over a year ago, two brothers and her father when she was 8 years old.  In 2011 she was diagnosed with Lymphoma, then had lung cancer and most recently had a portion of her colon removed after cancer was detected there.  Kes said, " I never dwelled on it.  I just kept moving."  She thanked those in attendance for raising dollars to fund research.

The other Honorary Cancer Co-Chair Roxie Mitchell called herself, "The luckiest woman in the world."  I have to say I couldn't help but think this woman was diagnosed with breast cancer and is calling herself "lucky."  The former Director of the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf told the crowd gathered in front of the KDHL/POWER 96 Stage three and a half years ago she was very busy at the school with the usual stressful duties of the job, "Days were long, deadlines were tough.  So I delayed my checkup by a month and a half."

Mitchell went to the Piper Cancer Institute for a biopsy and two nights later, "Got the call.  All I remember is, sorry you have cancer and my whole world shifted.  The hardest part for me was having to tell my children because I'm mama.  I take care of them."

Mitchell explained everyone knew there was a prevalence of breast cancer in her family.  The key was the fact it was caught in the early stages.  With that history she decided to have a bilateral mastectomy.

Mitchell said her "lucky feeling" came from her caretakers.  Her family first.  "I couldn't have done it without them.  Then the professionals that diagnose you and take care of you.  Amy Selly, you're a rock.  She's awesome.  The cancer center here in town is second to none.  They're kind, they're compassionate, they're knowledgeable and you are the one that counts."

She went on to tell all those in attendance how appreciative she was of their efforts to raise funds for research so people with cancer can have hope due to improved diagnostics. "I was back at work in four weeks."

Mitchell added, "On the day I was given my clean bill of health my sister Jane was told that her cancer was inoperable and that knocked the wind out of me.  Now her and not me.  I don't have an answer for that.  She made a statement to me very shortly before she passed that, 'Life is too short and you got a second chance', and she's right I do. I retired a year and a half ago because life is too short and I get to enjoy the simple things in life."

Kaitlyn Haefmeyer was the Honorary Caregiver Chair and shared her story of losing her Mother to cancer.  "There was a lot of anger and tears.  Lots and lots of tears.  Unfortunately on November 20, 2013, four days after her 38th birthday, my Mom, my best friend, my rock, and now my angel lost her battle with cancer."

Hafemeyer tearfully shared the fact that she was "extremely angry at the world for a long time" after her death.   Her Mom was diagnosed when Kaitlyn was 5 and passed away when she was 13 years old.

Haefmeyer explained how appreciative she was of the American Cancer Society for their assistance to her as a caregiver and daughter of a cancer patient.  She was included in a support group for children of cancer patients, "It was a tremendous help in Mom's cancer journey."

Going into this year's event $2,006,627.90 had been raised by the Rice County Relay for Life since it's beginning in 1993.

A huge thank you was expressed to the many cancer survivors who came down to the Rice County Fairgrounds for the event.  Each survivor is given some colored paper rings to wear around their neck or carry and they start the relay after the opening ceremonies by walking to the Keith Shaffer Memorial Survivor tree and placing their rings on the tree.  The total number of cancer survivor years this year was 1,648.

The total number of luminaries lit around the fairgrounds 3,679. During the invocation Our Saviours Lutheran Church Pastor Jeff Sandgren said each of them "Represented a person."  I always like to think of each of the candles representing the souls of those people lighting up our lives.

Every penny raised is appreciated.  During closing ceremonies top individual and team fundraisers were recognized.

The top 5 individual fundraisers were:

  1. Candy Meyer        $3,730.76
  2. Lori Jo Markman  $3,575.00
  3. Kerry Vigesaa      $3,150.00
  4. Kay Hazel            $2,645.00
  5. Cindy Gilbertson  $2,280.00

The top 5 teams:

  1. PEO Stately Striders     $20,010.05
  2. SBF Strollers                 $  9,917.27
  3. Caron Connection         $  9,506.97
  4. Don and Mels                $  8,506.00
  5. The Builders                  $  6,843.26

I always tease the teams about not having even amounts of money raised and offer to kick in the extra cents to round the total to the next dollar but they never take me up on it.  Probably because the paperwork has been completed.

The other teams involved in this year's event were Cruisin For a Cure, Allina Relay Nation #1, Allina Relay Nation #2, Lisa's Angels Teal We Find a Cure, Marching For Margo, Marching For Melissa, Turkey Trotters and Webster Walking Warriors.

This year in an effort to get more people to participate throughout the night there was a "Appetizer Cook-Off" contest held at 2:00 a.m.  Appetizers were submitted from all 13 teams.  I was not in attendance but some of the people who were told me the "Celebrity Judges" were awesome.  They included Faribault Mayor Kevin Voracek, Minnesota State Senator John Jasinski, Faribault Fire Chief Dusty Dienst and Faribault Area Chamber Chief Executive Nort Johnson.

I know everyone leads a busy life but it would be nice to see more people come to this event always held on the first Friday of August.  The silent auction is very well organized.  The food delicious.  The games for the kids appear to be enjoyed.

I always have fun being the emcee of what I call the love fest and appreciate all the hard work of the Relay for Life Committee.

For all those who participated in any way a big thank you!

Rice County Relay Holy Innocents Church. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Rice County Relay KDHL/POWER 96 Stage with Mark Allen. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Rice County Relay View From Stage Luminaria Lighting Service 2018. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Rice County Relay 2018 Luminary. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Rice County Relay 2018 Looking West. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld
Rice County Relay 2018 Looking East. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld