By Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

Cancer strikes both the old and the young, the rich, the poor, and everyone in between, Houston County Relay for Life co-chairs Ryan and Maria Henry noted recently. This year’s relay marks the 25th anniversary of a local event that lends a hand to those battling cancer, salutes those who have survived their fight with the disease, supports caregivers, and also supports research to put an end to cancer once and for all.

“One of the last times that this event was in La Crescent, my grandma was the honorary chairperson for Relay for Life,” Maria said. “She spoke that night, and we had a team to support her, and just a year later she was gone.  

“She was very important in my life, and to see her journey and how quickly cancer took her from us... It’s just an important cause. The American Cancer Society has recent research that states that one in three people will suffer from cancer in their lifetime.  

“For me it was kind of the same thing,” Ryan said. “My dad passed away in 2015, and his was a long battle with cancer, 10 years.  So, we saw him go through the ups and downs of cancer and treatments, including remission and the disease coming back... I kind of look at it as a way to honor their memory and to try to do our small part here in Houston County to lend a hand to the cause of trying to eradicate cancer.”

Why should people help out?

Ryan: “Anybody can relate to the cause that they (the American Cancer Society) are working towards. We all know someone, whether it is yourself or a family member or a friend who has been touched by cancer... I think this is the one thing that just about everybody can really relate to.

Maria: “And, a lot of the money raised here will stay local, within the Houston County community. Sometimes it provides transportation to appointments for patients, and it can help with the cost of a hotel stay for treatments, too. Every time someone in our county is diagnosed, they get an informational packet from the American Cancer Society, letting them know what resources are available to them. And the rest of the money goes towards research.

How can participants help? 

“A lot of ways,” Ryan said. “A lot of people think you’ve got to be on a team... But this year we’re trying to really make it a community event that everyone can attend. We’ll have a couple of popular food trucks that will donate a portion of their sales to the cause, so even if you can’t stay for the night, stop and pick up dinner and take it home and you will be doing a part in helping us reach our goal.

“And if you do feel like coming back, we’ll have a lot of great entertainment on tap that night. The La Crescent Community Band will be playing, and we’ve got the Highland Voices, and a young person from La Crescent (Kaleb Harris) doing some acoustic music later. Also we’ve got a lot to do. You can come by and bid on some silent auction items, you can buy some raffle tickets, some teams will be selling t-shirts and other items, and we’ll have the luminarias, of course. So even if you’re not on a team, don’t let that scare you away from coming over. Make it a fun evening, even though there are going to be some somber moments.      

“It’s a family event that you can enjoy, and know that any money that you spend will help the cause.

“This is the 25th anniversary. The first Houston County relay was in Spring Grove, and we’ve actually got a number of  people that were helping out during that first year who are helping us at this relay.  For example, Judy Bratland is heading up the survivor’s reception. 

“Teams have signed up from all over the county, and we encourage everyone to come out, from all over the county

“There will be entertainment and food, so enjoy yourself, and take some time remember the people you know who have fought, or someone who is fighting against cancer now. That’s what the evening is about.

Maria:”The goal is $28,500 this year. Houston County Relay for Life raised around $30,000 last year in Hokah. It’s all possible thanks to a committee of really dedicated volunteers.” 

Opening ceremonies for this year’s Houston County Relay for Life begin at 6 p.m. on Friday,  August 2nd  at the La Crescent High School track and field complex. Some activities, such as luminaria sales, raffle sales, the silent auction and survivor/caregiver registration begin a bit earlier. Food trucks (Fathead Steve’s and Big Boar BBQ) will also begin serving at 5 p.m. The Luminaria Ceremony is scheduled for 8:45, and the Fight Back Ceremony will begin at 11:45. 

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