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Quad County Relay For Life - 2011

Hand in hand ... Walking or riding, cancer survivor or care giver, close neighbor or from a different town, but no strangers, as people gathered together for the 2011 Quad County Relay For Life held this year in Midland, Saturday, August 27.

Saturday, August 27, the Midland City Park was this year's site for the Quad County Relay For Life, an annual cancer awareness program and fundraiser to help pay for research to find a cure and prevention for cancer.

Teams of volunteers were joined by scores of individuals at noon to begin setting up team camps. Registration of cancer survivors began at 2:00 p.m.

Opening ceremonies began at 4:30 p.m. with an official welcome from this year's main coordinator Pat Foley, a flag presentation by the Midland American Legion, the national anthem being sung by the Haakon County Crooners, and relay blessing by Pastor Frezil Westerlund.

During the afternoon and evening, guest speakers included Heidi Hershly of the American Cancer Society. She told the audience that there are over 11 million cancer survivors alive and well today. She praised the Quad County Relay For Life efforts, reminding the particpants that they earned a 2008 nationwide top 10 per capita award. "It amazes me when a community comes together and you give and give and give," said Hershly. She concluded with the statistic that, with early detection, there is currently a 98 percent that cancer is survivable.

Jen and Jeff Jones, Midland, told of the trials they and their son, Stetson, went through when he was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, an eye cancer. They refused various procedures, including to have Stetson's eye removed. The treatment they did pursue involved inserting a catheter from his lower body to the eye in order to deliver a concentrated dose of chemotherapy. After several involved treatments, the tumor is shrinking. Stetson, though still under observation and testing, is a cancer survivor.

Kathy Gittings, Philip told of her fight with breast cancer when she was 35. "You have to take it one day at a time, and it is in God's hands," said Gittings. "The best thing I can say is that I am a surviver. I hope you all will be."

Of the many laps walked by volunteers during the Relay For Life, the famous survivor lap drew the largest attention and applause. Over 50 survivors were present to receive ribbons. They either walked the special lap or rode in carts or wagons as honored guests.

There was an honor lap for caregivers. Then the more entertaining laps were held. Individuals and teams competed for prizes in the crazy hat lap, the costume lap and the patriotic lap. During the entire evening, the stage was used by entertainers, including young Regan Simons, Wall, who sang and was accompanied by her sister, Athena, who danced. Philip's Shake-It-Up girls danced, even incorporating hoola hoops into their routine. The Haakon County Crooners men's singing group was followed by Joni Willoughby, Midland, and later by award-winning Kianna Knutson, Philip.

At last, the awaited luminary ceremony was held. The name of a person was read, one for each luminarie, with either "in honor of" or "in memory of" before each name. Each of the hundreds of decorated luminescent bags were put aglow by lighting the candles inside. This particular ceremony, within the larger ceremony, concluded with a lights lap taken by attendees.

At the end of the evening, almost 100 of the luminaries were sent aloft into the night sky by way of a hot-air balloon technique. Their lights could be seen for a very long time. This was the first year for the floating lights at the Quad County Relay For Life.

Drawings and a live fundraiser auction followed. A closing prayer completed the 2011 Quad County Relay For Life.

With some monies still coming in, the total raised so far from the event, and all the team events that lead up to it, is over $33,000. The teams present were the Midland Slam Dunkers, Milesville Mardi Gras, Wall Lightning Bugs, Cowboy Up For The Fight, Lady Bugs, First National Bank Cowpokes, Cowgirls, Town and Country Frogs and Pam's Pink Ladies. The Quad County Relay For Life was "in remembrance of those who lost the fight to cancer, for those in treatment and the survivors." This year's motto was, "Had it, fought it, survived it."