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A sign of hope

The HOPE sign has traveled between Alexandria Clinic and Douglas County Hospital for people to sign. People have written messages of hope, names of those affected by cancer, blessings, prayers and notes of inspiration like these. (Amy Chaffins/Echo Press)

There are notes of inspiration written by survivors.

There are memorials for those who have passed.

There are names and dates and smiley faces written in silver.

They’re all messages of hope scrawled across a gigantic sign created by two local residents.

Dan Ridler and Christina Cook, co-workers at Alexandria Clinic, teamed up to bring the sign of hope to life. Cook was the idea person and Ridler did the woodwork.

Cook found the HOPE sign idea on Pinterest, a website people use to collect ideas for their different projects and interests.

“I was like, ‘That would be so awesome. I want to do that’,” she said. “So I was thinking how am I going to do this? A co-worker said I should talk to Dan about it. I showed him the photo and he was like, ‘Yeah, I love doing woodwork.’

“I gave him the project on a Tuesday or Wednesday and he came back Monday morning with it done,” she said.

Each letter measures 4x7 feet.

“I did cut it down a little because we started with 4x8 sheets of plywood,” Ridler laughed.

“We wanted to go smaller but we ended up going big,” Cook said.

The sign was first located at Alexandria Clinic from June 11-16 and then moved to Douglas County Hospital’s east entrance on June 16 where it will stay through the afternoon of July 7.

At each location, people have written hundreds of messages of hope, blessings, prayers, memorials and more.

“People are putting all kinds of sayings on there and I had no idea it would go over like it did,” Ridler said. “The ones who write how long they’ve been cancer-free enforce the hope word.”

Cook said it’s been amazing to see the power of the word “hope.”

“When you hear the word ‘cancer,’ it’s like scary and fearful and dark, but with ‘hope’ there’s that light and you keep working and keep fighting and don’t give up. It’s just very uplifting,” she said.


Ridler is a recent cancer survivor and said, “I just feel so compelled to give back to those who helped me through this.”

He is an honoree survivor for the 2014 Relay For Life of Douglas County, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Watch for his story, and others, in the July 4 issue of the Echo Press.

Cook said she felt a personal mission to do something after her family was impacted by cancer.

“My cousin had been diagnosed with cancer and my uncle had been diagnosed with cancer and they both fought and fought and fought, but lost their fight against the disease. It was devastating to see my family so taken and hurt by this. They were both strong. After they had passed away I felt so helpless – like what can I do?”

She decided to focus on hope.

“I want to help make a difference in people’s lives. There’s a sign that I put up that says, ‘Let’s support the fighters, admire the survivors, honor the taken, and never ever give up hope.’ I thought that was perfect,” Cook said.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

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