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Relay for Life ranks third in state

Cancer survivor honorees Amy Winter (left) and Lori Meissner (right) led the way for the survivor’s lap at the 2017 Relay for Life. (Echo Press file photo)

Participants at last year's Douglas County Relay for Life event raised $185,000, the third most of any Relay event in Minnesota.

"It's because of the great community support," said Lorene Pitcher, event lead for this year's Relay for Life event. "We were just behind two metro Relay events. I am so proud of everyone."

Pitcher said last year's event yielded two other achievements. Alexandria Industries raised $51,802, the most in the state. The company was recognized as a Nationwide Team of Excellence and was 68th nationally. The Douglas County Relay was also recognized with the Nationwide Spirit of Relay Award for being fourth for funds raised per capita for population.

This year's Relay for Life event is Friday, July 13, starting at 5 p.m. and stretching over the next eight hours at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

Pitcher stressed that the construction going on at the fairgrounds won't impact the event, other than having people use the west gate entrance this year.

"It will not affect our walking path," she said.

A couple of new events are planned. One is a Little Mr. and Miss Relay Kiddie Parade. Families are encouraged to decorate a "float" ahead of time for their children ages 10 and under, such as a bike, big wheel, wagon, stroller or anything that moves by human power. The kiddie parade is at 7:30 p.m.

The other new event is the Relay Thinks You Can Dance, "a dance contest for the guys." Men who want to participate can register that night, starting at 7 p.m. with a couple of practices before the contest. The dance competition is set for midnight.

"We really have a lot of great things going on this year," Pitcher said of the 28th annual event.

She hopes to reach a goal of 3,200 luminaries, which is 100 more than were lit in 2017.

Luminaries can be purchased from any Relay for Life participant and will also be available that night.

Cancer Action Network

Pitcher is hoping to reach one more goal this year. Should 12 more people become members of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Douglas County will be recognized for the fifth straight year as one of the top networks in the state.

The network is committed to the mission of eliminating cancer as a major health problem, Pitcher said.

"Ending cancer as we know it in this country is as much a matter of public policy as it is medical science and discovery," she said. "Many important decisions about cancer are made not just in the doctor's office, but also in your state legislature, in Congress and the White House."

For example, Pitcher said, the federal government is the largest funder of medical research in this country with 80 cents of every dollar going back into communities to conduct research. She stressed the importance of Congress increasing funding for cancer research to continue progress against this disease.

Prior to the network being involved in state legislative campaigns, many insurance companies didn't cover mammograms and/or other cancer screenings, according to Pitcher. But because of the work of cancer advocates, she said, private health insurance providers are now required to cover mammograms so women can get the early diagnosis that could save their life.

She credits the work of cancer advocates for getting health insurance coverage, clinical trial participation, the development of new treatments, tobacco control policies and funding for prevention programs on the legislative agenda.

"That is why advocacy is critical to help prevent and fight cancer," she said.

For more information or to join, go to the Douglas County Relay for Life website at

Schedule of events

• 5-6 p.m. — Music, supper

• 6 p.m. — Opening ceremony, honoree stories, survivor and caregiver laps

• 7 p.m. — Supper resumes. Medallion/scavenger hunt

• 7-8 p.m. — Mission theme laps, crazy hair or crazy hat lap. Registration for men's dance contest opens

• 7:15 p.m. — Children's games in the Log Building

• 7:30 p.m. — Kiddie Parade lap

• 7:55 p.m. — Box Car Derby

• 8:15-10:45 p.m. — Blonde and the Bohunk perform on the main stage

• 8-9 p.m. — Practice for dance contestants

• 9 p.m. — Messages to heaven. White balloon release

• 9:30 p.m. (around dusk) — Luminaria ceremony

• 10:45 p.m. — Pizza in the Heritage building

• 11 p.m. — Fight Back ceremony/Zumba with Char Slack

• 11:30 p.m. — Final dance practice

• Midnight — So Relay Thinks You Can Dance contest

• 12:45 a.m. — Final lap and closing ceremony on the main stage

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in more than 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

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