Alexandria Industries holds 16th annual Fishing For the Cure angling tournament, the largest yet
The tournament raises money for Relay for Life of Douglas County. All proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.
DOUGLAS COUNTY — Music, food and fishing swelled over the frozen surface of Smith Lake east of Alexandria on Saturday, Feb. 18 — a clear 35-degree day — for an ice fishing tournament that raised money for cancer research.
In 2007, Alexandria Industries hosted its first Fishing For the Cure ice fishing tournament. A total of 112 people attended and $620 was raised. This year, for the 16th annual event, 1,564 people attended; the largest yet. The goal for this year is $100,000. Final donation numbers will be announced later in the week.
"Our record-setting was 1,436 (attendees) in 2020. We smashed that (this year) with 1,564. Thank you for fishing for the cure," said Robbie Betterman while addressing the crowd of attendees during the event's closing ceremony.
Money was raised through the fishing tournament's entry fees, raffle tickets and food concessions. Patty Hoffman, media relations for Alexandria Industries, described the event as "phenomenal."
"We were blown away by everything. With the weather, the turnout and the level of participation. It seemed like everyone had a great time and I think people really get why we are there," said Hoffman.
The fishing tournament raises money for Relay for Life of Douglas County . All proceeds from the tournament go to the American Cancer Society.
"About one in three people are affected by cancer at some in their life. In 2023, it is estimated that over 36,000 Minnesotans will be diagnosed, newly diagnosed, with cancer. It is also estimated that over 11,000 will lose their fight to cancer," said Sherri Maanum with Douglas County Relay for Life. "But there is hope. There's hope out there. Alexandria Industries gives us hope. They give us hope by helping us fund research. By helping us fund the Hope Lodge. By helping us fund the hotel program when you need to travel away for treatments and doctors' appointments. There's a road to recovery."
Hoffman said that when the event first started — beyond raising money for cancer research — Alexandria Industries also wanted it to be an event that was family-friendly. Something that got children off their video games, out of the house and hopefully spark their interest in fishing
William Szyperski of Osakis said it was his first time at the event and he invited family members from across the state to join him on the lake.
"We brought all the kids out here, from ages 16 to 8. My uncle came from the cities, my brother came from Blaine, one came from Elk River and we got one from Big Lake and they brought all their kids. We heard it was a kid-friendly event," said Szyperski. "It's awesome. We had a good time... There isn't one person I know that hasn't been affected by or knows someone who has cancer. So this is a great cause. You can't beat it."
Those who took part in fishing had the opportunity to win prizes — all donated by the event's sponsors — for the top 100 fish by largest weight and time registered in two categories — top 50 for large fish, including walleye and northern; and top 50 in small fish, including crappie, sunfish and perch.
Large fish winners
- Spencer Herness
- Dan Wilken
- Jim Casper
Small fish winners
- Mason Pullis
- Brandon Bartyzal
- Tony Revvers
Beyond fishing, the event also awards prizes through raffles.
- Colton Cravers won a 2023 Ice Castle fish house
- Rocky Gordon won a 2021 CX200 XT Clam fish house
- Tanner Ronholdt won a Honda generator
- Sheri Steven won a Jason Mitchell XT Clam fish house
- Brandon Tulio won his and her Clam parka set
- Jaden Pastian won a Strikemaster 24 volt 8-inch ice auger
- Kevin Ricker won a Big Buddy Heater
- Mylee Holden won a GoPro
There was also a 50/50 raffle that awarded Scott Nohre $6,654.
Over $70,000 was raised through raffle tickets alone.
Those weren't the only winners during the event. During the closing ceremony, Alexandria Industries was presented with two national awards by the American Cancer Society Relay for Life — the Nationwide Team of Excellence award and the Top 10 Nationwide Individual Fundraiser award.
It is the largest, single, Relay for Life fundraiser in Minnesota. It's ranked second in the cancer society's 13-state region #18 in the nation.
"This is amazing and astonishing," said Maanum. "I am so fortunate to be a part of this. I can't believe it. I am so proud of you guys... Thank you so much everybody for everything you do every single day to help us fight cancer."
Over 150 sponsors and nearly 100 volunteers made the event possible. It started at noon and ended at 3 p.m.
"For people that haven't been (to the event), you have to go to experience what it's like," said Hoffman. "It's an experience that you won't forget. It's a great time for a great cause and everyone's heart is in the right place when they're out there."