For 20 years, Morrison County Relay for Life has had a symbolism beyond all-night event

By Mary Kline, Guest Columnist 

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Morrison County Relay for Life, a community event raising money for the American Cancer Society to help in the fight against cancer. On Friday, July 19, people throughout our community will spend the night walking around Flyer Field to show support for their family and friends battling cancer and, at the same time, honoring loved ones we have lost in the struggle.

One out of two men and one out of three women will be diagnosed with cancer sometime in their lives. That statistic seems so high to me, but when I think of all of the people in my life who have been diagnosed with cancer, it shouldn’t be such a surprise. My dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer over 20 years ago and is a proud survivor, but I’ve lost many loved ones to cancer, which is why fundraising for Relay for Life is so important to me.

Of foremost importance, the American Cancer Society helps people in “our” community. There are many examples.

Hope Lodge serves as a “home away from home” for cancer patients and their families when they need to receive treatment far away from where they live. There are two locations in Minnesota — one in Rochester and one near the University of Minnesota. During a six-month period, Hope Lodge has provided 329 free nights of accommodations for Morrison County cancer patients and their families, saving them almost $38,000 in lodging expenses.

People from our community have also participated in the Look Good, Feel Better program, which helps cancer patients deal with changes in their physical appearance by providing wigs, wraps and makeup kits — all at no cost to participants.

Another helping hand, the Road to Recovery program, provides rides to treatment for local cancer patients.

And finally, $10.4 million is invested annually in the state of Minnesota alone for research at the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota, helping to discover new treatments for cancer and, perhaps, ultimately finding a cure.

These are just a few of the many ways that the American Cancer Society makes a difference in the lives of people from our community.

My husband Rick and I are proud to be part of such an emotional and worthwhile event as the Morrison County Relay for Life. If you’ve never been to a Relay, it may be difficult to understand the emotion emanating from Flyer Field.

While I’ve been part of Relay for Life for the past few years, I didn’t truly understand the symbolism behind the all-night event until this year. We start the Relay at 7 p.m. Daylight is still evident to everyone in attendance and everything seems normal. This commencement of the Relay represents cancer patients pre-diagnosis. Their lives are going along day by day and every day is like the one before.

Later in the evening, the sun goes down and it gradually gets dark — life has changed for people diagnosed with cancer. The darkness often surrounds patients.

But the darkness isn’t endless. Our Relay for Life teams walk all night. They walk along side their friends and family members, providing love and support during this difficult time of darkness, of not knowing. Slowly, the sun comes up, representing hope. The light of hope shines out for a cure to a disease that takes approximately 70 Morrison County lives each year. Together, we are helping to brighten that light.

In closing, Rick and I would like to say “thank you” to all of the volunteers who have made this event such a success the past 20 years. And thank you to the community that provides us with the support, motivation and opportunity to hold our Relay.

Mary Kline and her husband, Rick, are the co-chairs for the 2013 Morrison County Relay for Life, Little Falls.