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Hundreds walk in cancer fight


More than $173,000 raised during Relay at fairgrounds


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Members of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church’s team stepped it up at this year’s Relay For Life, raising more than $46,000 for cancer research and education. photo by Tom Wearing.

June 16, 2010
IMLAY CITY — Threatening skies loomed ominously above the Eastern Michigan Fairgrounds over the weekend, but did little to deter hundreds from joining in the 2010 Lapeer County "Relay for Life" June 12-13.

By Sunday morning, more than 40 teams had collected in excess of $173,000 for the American Cancer Society for research and public education. The figure surpasses last year's total by more than $20,000.

"This event has a life of its own," said Relay Chairperson Joyce Nolin-Capman on Monday. "The support we receive from the community is absolutely unbelievable. The people of Lapeer County are so generous. They give whatever they can—whether it's time, money or support."

Local American Cancer Society representative Carol Boom pointed out that contributions were made in both sizable and modest amounts.

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"It takes everyone working together to make this event such a success," said Boom. "It's not about the size of the donation. Whatever amount someone can give is significant and helpful."

Boom noted that 170 cancer survivors were on hand for the weekend's event, which is 21 more than last year.

"We want to honor all of those individuals and continue to see that number grow," said Boom. "Cancer can be a hard subject to talk about, but we were able to raise a lot more awareness this year. It's very important to educate the public about this disease."

Nolin-Capman agreed, adding that an infusion of youth is reaping rewards and helping increase awareness across the generations. Indeed, this year's theme, "Fairy Tales and Nursery Rymes," was designed to appeal to young participants, as well as those young at heart.

"We have more younger people involved now than in the past," said Nolin-Capman. "We had teams representing schools and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Their participation brings a lot more energy and vitality to the event.

"This disease affects so many people on so many levels," she continued. "It touches everyone. We continue to hope and believe that a cure will be found and that there will be an end to this."

That pervasive sense of optimism was evident throughout the fairgrounds as attendees exchanged personal stories and experiences well into the wee hours of Sunday.

"This event is about honoring the memory of those we've lost; about celebrating the survivors and fighting back against this disease," said Carol Konik, co-team leader for Imlay City's St. Paul's Lutheran Church team. "That's why we're involved —to fight for a cure."

After finishing second in fundraising to Lapeer's Ray C's teams the past two years, St. Paul's led all teams this year by raising more than $46,000 for the cause.

Konik said the friendly rivalry began three years ago, when Ray C's team members edged out St. Paul's by a margin of $15,000 to $12,500.

"They issued us a challenge that year to raise more money," Konik recalled. "Last year they raised more than us again by $1,600, so we really wanted to beat them this year."

Establishing a lofty goal of $30,000 at the outset of the 2010 campaign, St. Paul's sponsored numerous fundraisers during the year. About two weeks ago, they kicked the collection drive into overdrive, while raising their goal to $40,000.

"We'd been keeping an eye on the numbers and knew we were doing well," said co-team leader Debbie Makedonsky. "The team kept asking us how we were doing, but we wouldn't tell them."

That added bit of uncertainty may have helped fuel the team's final surge.

"In the last few days, I felt like God was raining money on us," Konik said.

Worthy of note was the effort of St. Paul's team member Diane Fahnestock, who logged more than 42 miles during the Relay. Other team members walked 20 miles or more.

Fairgrounds lauded

Relay organizers were quick to acknowledge the Eastern Michigan Fairgrounds and Fair Board for its continuing support since becoming home for the event five years ago. Nolin-Capman said donations and participation have grown incrementally during each of those years.

"The fairgrounds is the ideal venue for this event," she said. "It has great visibility, it's accessible and there is widespread community support.

"I am in awe of how generous the county and local community are for his event," she continued. "It seems that when people are experiencing tough times in this economy, they are more sensitive to the struggles of others."

As the dust settled on the 2010 Relay, organizers and participants reflected on its successes and enduring meaning for cancer patients, victims, survivors and their families.

"All you have to do is see the luminaria ceremony," said Konik. "You have to experience that to know what it means."

Boom agreed that the event packs a particular emotional punch for those in attendance.

"At the closing ceremony," said Boom, "I saw men weeping when we announced how much money had been raised. That's how emotional this can be."

To make a donation to the Lapeer County Relay for Life or the American Cancer Society, visit their respective Web sites or email: Carol.Boom@cancer.org.

Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.
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