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Crushing cancer with hope

Honorees for the 2014 Douglas County Relay for Life led a big throng of cancer survivors who gathered at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Alexandria Friday night to spread a message of hope. They included (left to right) Jo Cory, Brady Lind, Dan Ridler and Ruth Christenson. (Al Edenloff/Echo Press)1 / 3
Maya Perry (left) and Samantha Magnuson signed the first letter of a “Hope” sign that was displayed at the Relay for Life. Honoree Dan Ridler made the sign. During his talk he said cancer gave him more back – a new appreciation for life – than it took away. (Al Edenloff/Echo Press)2 / 3
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A steady surge of people in purple shirts walked together at the Douglas County Fairgrounds Friday night and into the wee hours of Saturday morning.

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Their message: There is hope for those battling cancer.

The Douglas County Relay for Life, at a new venue this year, was every bit as successful and emotionally charged as past years – and then some.

The event, with more money still coming in, was zeroing in on $135,000 on Monday afternoon, which will shatter last year’s record amount of $132,000.

“It’s remarkable,” said relay chair, Lorene Pitcher, of the community’s response. “We could not have asked for a better event.”

The Douglas County Relay for Life is one of the most successful relays of all those held across the state. In fact, it ranks in the top 50 in the four-state region and is 20th in the state for fundraising.

The Douglas County Relay for Life also received a first-ever award from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (CAN) for signing up more than 40 new members.

The relay delivers a powerful message to all those whose lives have been touched by cancer: You’re not alone, Pitcher said.

She shared one example of how inspiring the event can be: Through the early morning hours, she watched one man wearing purple, Dave Miller, keep circling the walking path. “It was like he was on a mission,” she said.

With dawn starting to break at 5 a.m., an hour before the event would wrap up, Miller was still going strong, she said. “We’re so close,” said those who were walking with the man. “Just five more laps to go.”

After those five laps were covered, Pitcher found out that Miller had circled the one-quarter-mile walking path 100 times.

“He walked 25 miles in one day,” Pitcher said. “He had a goal in mind and he hit it. That’s dedication.”

Pitcher said the Fairgrounds location, a change from the athletic field at the now closed Jefferson High School, received rave reviews from participants.

About 1,200 people attended and 39 teams raised money for the fight against cancer.

Three honorees who have courageously battled the disease, Brady Lind, Ruth Christenson and Dan Ridler, shared their inspirational stories, and a family caregiver, Jo Cory, was also honored and spoke about her experiences of caring for her husband.

After a colorful array of balloons was released, honorees led the first lap along the path, which was lined with 2,103 luminarias, candle-lit paper bags honoring cancer survivors and victims.

As wave after wave of purple walked the path, announcer Chelsea Nelson urged the crowd: “Give it up for these people! This is what hope looks like!”

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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