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Relay for Life aids in cancer research at River Falls High School

April 11, 2018

Mary Van Galen poses with Freddy the Falcon during the Relay for Life event at the River Falls High School last Friday.

Mary Van Galen poses with Freddy the Falcon during the Relay for Life event at the River Falls High School last Friday. (Chris Gregg/WRFW)

The capabilities of modern medicine continue to reach incredible heights. However, despite the amazing progress that has been made in the medical field, cancer still remains incurable. Events like Relay for Life, which was held at the River Falls High School last Friday night, are attempting to raise money for the American Cancer Society to help aid in the research for a cure.

Relay for Life is an annual fundraiser that is open to anyone who wants to participate, regardless of their connection to cancer. The “relay,” is a walk around the track of the gymnasium, where each corner of the track represents part of a cancer patient’s journey.

Surrounding the track are dozens of bags known as luminaries. These luminaries symbolize people who have or are fighting cancer and those who have died from cancer. Other events such as silent auctions, a spaghetti dinner and games also take place.

The walk around the track is very emotional for the many whose lives have been forever altered by cancer. “Cancer affects everyone somehow,” Matt Cariveau said, a relay participant who was walking with his 4-H team.

Kathy Casey, a volunteer at Relay for Life, had to watch her sister endure cancer. She volunteers because she wants to do whatever it takes to find a cure. “All I want is to get more money to better help treatment research,” Casey said.

The luminaria ceremony took place later that night. The ceremony is meant to honor those who have dealt with cancer in their lives and remember those who lost their battle with cancer. Andrea Fults, one of the Event Leads for Relay for Life, took to the podium and read the names of the loved ones who were honored during the ceremony as the lights were dimmed. “We will not forget those who have lost their battle to this disease, nor will we forget the story behind each luminaria bag,” Fults said.

After the names were read, Fults asked anyone in the audience who had been affected by cancer in some way to rise and light the glow stick that had been provided to them. Every person in the gym activated their glow stick. “All of our glow sticks are lit because we have all been affected by cancer, but together we are doing something about it,” Fults said.

The purpose of Relay for Life is not just to grieve lost loved ones, but also to celebrate survivors and to unite under the common goal of discovering a cure. The relay allows people from all walks of life to show their support for cancer patients. In addition to the glow sticks illuminating the darkness of the gymnasium, “HOPE” was spelled out in lights above the podium. With no cure currently available, the message meant that sometimes all someone needs to survive their diagnosis is a little bit of hope.

Relay for Life has already raised over $90,000 of their target $130,000 for this year. They will be raising money until August 31. For more information about donating, check out @relay.acsevents.org.

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