Community support needed at annual Relay For Life Friday

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The Great River Relay For Life has been held outdoors at the Prairie du Chien High School track and inside at Bluff View School in the past. This year, for the first time, it will take place indoors at Hoffman Hall. Regardless of its location, every year, participants walk laps to symbolize strength in numbers, in support of those battling cancer past and present. (Courier Press file photos)

Notes are written on many of the luminaria at the Great River Relay For Life and express heartfelt messages to or about people’s loved ones who’ve been touched by cancer. The annual relay will take place Friday, May 19, beginning at 5 p.m., at Hoffman Hall.

Calling all local superheroes

By Correne Martin

A cancer survivor is someone who never gives up. He’s courageous and hopeful. She’s positive and admirable. They fight with every ounce of their being.

Whether they’re a four-year survivor or have battled cancer for 40 years, they need the support of those around them in order to have the strength to face the most trying moments.

Once again, the Great River Relay For Life has arrived and area community members have the significant occasion to come together in support and honor of those touched by cancer, past or present.

This year, the annual event has been refashioned slightly. The superhero-themed relay has moved ahead to spring and the location and day/time have changed.

It will take place on a Friday night, May 19, from 5 to 10:30 p.m., at Hoffman Hall. As always, during the Great River Relay For Life, members of teams take turns walking or running around a track or path. These teams have participated in fundraising in the months leading up to the relay. Those not on teams who wish to attend as individuals, families or groups are welcome to stop by, walk a few laps, have a sandwich and enjoy a good time among friends and acquaintances.

“This is a chance for cancer survivors, caregivers, volunteers and community members to unite in an effort to free the world from the pain and suffering of cancer,” said Erica Borowski, senior manager of Relay For Life.

“It’s very powerful and symbolic to see our own community members walking together, even if it’s just a lap or two,” added Mary Ann Heisz, longtime local relay co-coordinator and a cancer survivor. “We’re walking for a cure, for more research, for awareness. But it’s really all about the support we need to see as survivors. It’s for us to know that people do understand what we’re going through. We need that.”

Starting at 5 p.m., teams will set up and ticket sales for basket drawings will begin. There will be a survivors’ ice cream social right away as well, provided by Culver’s and Huckleberry’s restaurants.

At 6 p.m., opening ceremonies will kick off, giving prominence to survivors. Then, there will be laps for survivors and caregivers and a dessert auction to follow.

Fun activities like Spiderman pinball, a superhero costume contest, piñata breaking and more will be available from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Don Lyons will provide musical karaoke entertainment too. All attendees are invited to wear their best and bravest costumes and join in the craze.

At 9 p.m., basket ticket sales will end and drawings will be held.

The most impactful and emotional time of the evening, the luminaria ceremony, is set for 9:30 p.m. Names of those being honored and remembered will be read solemnly throughout the ceremony.

“A lot of people put messages on the luminaria, along with the names of their loved ones,” Heisz noted. “What a chance to pay tribute to a lost loved one or to someone who is going through treatments. We have so many young people in our area right now who are facing cancer.

“As you walk laps, you might see a name of someone you haven’t thought about in years. It brings back such memories and tugs at your heart strings. You can’t leave without a tear in your eye or chills on your arm.”

The Spirit of Hope Closing Ceremony will be at 10:15 p.m. As Relay For Life participants leave for the night, it’s yet another poignant moment, according to Heisz. Hugs are given, tears are shed, strength and confidence are gained.

“It’s just that solidarity. It takes a village to support people,” she stated. “Our community has been so great about doing that. We hope to see people there.”

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