Fillmore County's Relay for Life is just around the corner. Well, maybe it's around the corner and down the street a bit, but organizers have been working diligently to make sure the 2014 Relay is as entertaining and prosperous as last year's fundraising event.

Set to be held in Harmony once again, the Relay for Life will be held on Friday, July 11, at the Harmony Community Center, just over three and a half months away.

Sue Sikkink and Lavonne Mensink are once again co-chairing the event and have recruited many of the same committee members who worked so hard to organize last year's Relay.

Many of the same teams are also returning and are currently busy raising money, Sikkink explained. So far, 20 teams and 98 participants have signed up online and have turned in over $9,600 in donations.

"We really need people to get signed up online," Sikkink said as a reminder to those wanting to organize a team and participate in this year's Relay. "It's not too late to start a team and have some fun while also fighting back against cancer."

Teams should also let Mensink know of any upcoming fundraisers and team-sponsored events so they can be posted on the Fillmore County Relay for Life website. A Facebook page is also being planned.

One example of the type of event to share is the Bodacious Broads' benefit being planned for this Saturday evening at Wheeler's Bar and Grill in Harmony. The event is being featured on the website and Sikkink hopes more teams will make their fundraisers known this way.

By the way, the benefit this weekend includes a beanbag tournament, with registration starting at 11 a.m. and tournament play beginning at 1 p.m. There will also be a silent auction running from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and a live auction at 7 p.m., massages, balloons to heaven at 5 p.m. and door prizes. Food and beverages are being served all day and music by Karaoke Joe will run from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Another upcoming event will be a four-person, best-ball golf tournament at the Old Barn Resort on Saturday, May 31. The Shooting Stars team will be hosting that event and more information on how to register will be provided closer to the date.

The theme for 2014's local Relay is "Up, Up, and Away With Cancer," featuring hot air balloons, which already decorate the Relay for Life meeting room in the community center.

Sikkink also shared the Relay for Life mantra of "Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back" and explained that Melissa Gieseke-Kuehl from the American Cancer Society recently explained those words also guide the events held through the Relay.

Celebrate is the theme behind the Survivors' and Caregivers' Tea, which kicks off the Relay on Friday afternoon, at 4 p.m. Sikkink stressed the tea is open to anyone who has overcome cancer or who may currently be fighting cancer. It is also a time to honor those who have cared for them. One may simply come to the tea on the day of the event in July, or one may contact Sikkink or Mensink in advance to be included on the mailing list. Invitations to the tea will be mailed to all survivors and caregivers on that list closer to the event this summer.

The community also celebrates the survivors and honors those who are caregivers during the survivors' first lap around the Relay course. The Relay teams are also highlighted during this time and team photos are taken to signify their contributions to the event.

Remembering is an important part of the Balloons to Heaven and luminaria ceremonies. For the first memorial, individuals purchase balloons and decorate them with the names of loved ones they've lost or write special messages to send to them in heaven. The balloons are released into the air during a moment of silence. The luminarias, which can be purchased from team members prior to the Relay for Life as well as during the actual event, are lit as the sun sets. The walkers follow the lit path, reading names on the illuminated bags, remembering those lost to cancer and honoring those who survive the disease.

As the night goes on, the focus turns to Fight Back, as teams are inspired to continue the efforts of fighting cancer, including fundraising, education and helping those who are struggling with the disease.

"The Relay may be ending, but we are just starting to fight back," Sikkink explained. "We inspire everyone to go forward and to continue the fight."

Relay favorites

Sikkink also explained that many of the traditional Relay for Life events are returning, including the Heads and Tails Game to win a chair donated by Drury's; bingo at 2 a.m.; Balloons to Heaven; silent and live auctions; kids' games; massages and hair cuts and music by Karaoke Joe.

The evening program begins at 6 p.m. and this year's emcees will once again be James Wilcox from KAAL-TV and Harmony's own Jay Masters.

Sikkink wanted to be sure team captains inform their teammates to be present at the kick-off as the team photos are taken before the first lap.

The community meals are already being organized with supper on Friday night from 5 to 8 p.m. and a community breakfast at 4 a.m.

Individual teams will also offer special surprises, games and food choices at their camps, located around the Relay's walking path.

Open to all

Sikkink stressed that one does not have to be on a team to enjoy the Relay for Life activities. Members of the community are invited to enjoy the meals; bid on silent auction items; listen to the music; visit the team camps and play the games offered throughout the night.

She noted that parking is available behind the community center and golf carts are running through the night to take people from their cars to the Relay site. Because there was some confusion about this last year, with many people thinking they had to park blocks away, Sikkink said she wanted to stress there is plenty of parking available on the grounds and if one needs a ride to or from a vehicle, there are shuttles available.

Many in the community also enjoy perusing through the silent auction items gathered by the teams. "There are many treasures to be found and some are quite unique," Sikkink added.

Each team can also submit an item for the live auction, most of which are larger, more valuable items. It is always a fun event as well, she added.

In the meantime

Even though the Relay for Life is still a few months away, Sikkink wants teams to start thinking about it now, when there are still many fundraising opportunities and time to organize events to benefit Fillmore County's Relay for Life.

Donations can be turned in to the committee as they are made by taking them to Sikkink or Vicki Christianson at First Southeast Bank in Harmony.

Email updates and events to put on the website to Mensink at lavonne.mensink@yahoo.com.

Finally, Sikkink also reminded teams and team members to sign up on the website at www.relayforlife.org/fillmoremn. She noted that if one bookmarked that page during last year's event, or previous years, one must type in the address again and create a new bookmark for access this year.

For those simply wanting to enjoy the fun of the Relay, make sure to mark your calendars to come to Harmony on July 11 to join in the fun. Celebrate. Remember. Fight back.

Together, we can go "Up, Up and Away With Cancer!"