Relay for Life committee members, Sharon Christenson, at left, and Kathy Broadwater, at right, are shown with Jessica Hemmenway, Relay for Life specialist for the American Cancer Society, in the t-shirts being sold by The Shooting Stars Relay for Life team. The t-shirts feature cancer ribbons in all colors, representing all kinds of cancer. The t-shirt reads, “Together we will fight . . . Together we will win!” The t-shirts are $20 each and can be purchased from Broadwater by calling (507) 450-3820.  MELISSA VANDER PLAS/BLUFF COUNTRY READER<br /><br /><!-- 1upcrlf2 -->
Relay for Life committee members, Sharon Christenson, at left, and Kathy Broadwater, at right, are shown with Jessica Hemmenway, Relay for Life specialist for the American Cancer Society, in the t-shirts being sold by The Shooting Stars Relay for Life team. The t-shirts feature cancer ribbons in all colors, representing all kinds of cancer. The t-shirt reads, “Together we will fight . . . Together we will win!” The t-shirts are $20 each and can be purchased from Broadwater by calling (507) 450-3820. MELISSA VANDER PLAS/BLUFF COUNTRY READER

On the afternoon of Friday, July 11, the Harmony Community Center gym will be filled with individuals with inspirational stories of survival and perseverance. Sitting alongside them will be their friends and family, people who not only supported them through their cancer fight, but who may have cared for them when the chemo treatments made them ill or provided comfort on their darkest days of the disease.

The Survivor and Caregiver Tea is the first event planned for the 2014 Fillmore County Relay for Life.

Sue Sikkink, one of the co-chairs for the Relay for Life event, encourages everyone to plan on attending the tea. "It's an event that honors survivors and caregivers, but it's also for everyone else, too," she said. "It really is an inspirational start to our Relay."

Nate Osmonson, a survivor of thyroid cancer, will not only speak about his own cancer experience, but will share how his caregivers make a difference in his life.

Sikkink hopes that all cancer survivors and those currently fighting cancer will come to the tea. She said it is an amazing supportive environment where one can feel the hope and encouragement needed to overcome cancer. "We really want people to come and let others know there is hope and support for those who may need it," she added.

The tea will begin at 4 p.m. and Sikkink stressed that everyone is invited to attend and encouraged those who wish to attend to RSVP by emailing rflharmonytea@hotmail.com or by calling Kathy Broadwater at (507) 937-3217.

Parking for the event will be on the basketball court southwest of the community center and the grassy area beyond. "There is plenty of parking, so we hope parking concerns do not deter anyone from coming and participating in the event," Sikkink said.

The Harmony Lions will also have four golf carts with drivers available to shuttle individuals from the parking area to the front doors of the community center. "If you need a ride, we will get you there," Sikkink added.

Following the tea, the community supper of shredded pork and barbecue sandwiches will be held from 5 to 8 p.m., also in the gym.

The survivor and caregiver lap, the first walking lap of the Relay through the luminaries, will be held at 6 p.m. Relay for Life teams will be introduced and photographed beginning at 6:15 and will then take to the Relay course as well.

The evening festivities also include a live auction, Balloons to Heaven remembrance, musical entertainment by Bob Peters, Randy Long and Russ Guyer, the lighting of the luminaries at 8:45, a Heads or Tails Game to win a recliner donated by Drury's Furniture, karaoke with Karaoke Joe, late night Zumba and bingo.

The closing ceremonies and breakfast will be held at 4 a.m.

Sikkink reported that this year's fundraising goal is $128,000. So far, 29 teams have registered for the Relay with 463 participants. Money collected to date exceeds $68,000, which is over halfway towards the goal.

While the Relay for Life event is still several weeks away, Sikkink said members of various teams are hosting fundraisers and special events prior to the Relay on July 11. Her team, The Shooting Stars, recently completed a golf tournament at The Old Barn Resort, which raised over $3,000. The Bodacious Broads donated over $19,000 from the team's annual beanbag tournament and silent auction event in March. Several teams will be selling food during Harmony's Fourth of July event and another will be selling temporary glow-in-the-dark tattoos in the park. Many team members will also be going through the parade on the Fourth of July in Harmony, tossing out special prizes to publicize the upcoming event.

Finally, Sikkink urged local residents to keep an eye out for special breakfasts, games and other events that will not only provide an opportunity for the community to gather and have fun, but also provide a chance to support a worthy cause.

This year's theme for the Relay is "Up, Up and Away With Cancer" and Sikkink believes the Relay for Life does make a difference in the fight against cancer. Until a cure is found, she and her fellow committee members are prepared to "celebrate" the survivors, "remember" those who have been lost to the disease and to "fight back" by raising money and supporting those who are currently fighting the disease.

Join that fight on Friday, July 11, by attending Fillmore County's Relay for Life at the Harmony Community Center.