I was so excited to be part of the Fillmore County Relay for Life event again this year. Held at the Harmony Community Center, I was busy setting up with my family during the afternoon of Friday, July 11, and we stayed busy with our task until 8:30 p.m. when the Balloons to Heaven were released and we relaxed and had fun through the early morning hours of Saturday, July 12.
I can’t believe we all stayed awake that long!
My family has been in charge of the Balloons to Heaven program for the past two years and while it can be stressful selling over 250 balloons in a short amount of time, the moment those balloons are released is a poignant and beautiful one.
We started blowing up balloons at 4:30 and tied them to a clothes drying rack to display. However, it was a breezy day so our strings were getting tangled. Luckily, Mom had brought her camper, so we filled the bedroom, then the kitchen and then the living room with colorful balloons.
We tried to blow up enough for everyone in advance, but as the time for the program neared, we had to do more ballons “on demand.” As the line grew and the time for the program arrived, we were lucky to have a few people jump in and help at the last minute and everyone was able to get a balloon.
Some write messages on the balloons to individuals they have lost to cancer. Others simply write a name or date, something that holds special meaning for them. No matter what is written on the balloons, or even if there is nothing but a colorful balloon, when they are all released at once in a moment of silence, it is an amazing sight.
After the Balloons to Heaven program was over, we were able to enjoy the rest of the night with less stress and responsibility. My mom, sister-in-law and nieces enjoyed some quiet time under the awning of the camper, watching the walkers make their way through the luminaries.
I didn’t walk the track, but the others did and found wonderful treats at the team campsites. Others walking the track stopped on our campsite to visit. It was truly a wonderful, relaxing night.
We enjoyed music, games and talking with our neighbors.
We thought about those we loved who died of cancer and said prayers for those still battling the disease.
Perhaps the highlight of the early morning hours was bingo with my family. Tori, my niece, was the luckiest of us all, but each of us won at least a few games - well, with the exception of my sister-in-law, Annette, who didn’t win until the very last game. Thankfully, she was a pretty good sport about the whole thing!
As you have probably read, this year’s event surpassed its fundraising goal by over $8,000, but that was not the only “expectation” that we exceeded.
Going into the Relay, I always know it’s going to be a wonderful event - with remembering those who have died, celebrating those who are surviving and getting inspired to continue the fight to conquer this disease. However, each time I leave the Relay for Life events, I am in awe of the generosity of our local communities, the strength shown by the survivors and caregivers and the dedication we all have for this cause.
I am so very proud to have been a part of this year’s event and I am even prouder of those who I was able to work with through these past two years. There are so many people to thank and so many who deserve credit for the success of this event — from the organizers, to the volunteers, to the team captains and team members.
Since I?can’t list everyone, I will simply thank Sue Sikkink and Lavonne Mensink, Harmony’s co-chairs for the past two years, for organizing such a great event and for being great leaders. You have both been a joy to work with these past two years.
I also want to thank my own family - Mom, Annette, Tori, Allison and Katelyn - who made my part of the Relay go so smoothly. I also want to give a shout out to Nathan Osmonson and Jake Masters for jumping in and helping us out during the last minute of our balloon sales - you guys rock!
Finally, I want to acknowledge the new Fillmore County Relay for Life co-chairs, Deb Jorgenson and Wendy Kirchner from Chatfield, who will be in charge of the 2015 and 2016 Relay for Life.
Next year’s event will be held on July 10 in the city park of Chatfield. Please plan on attending, I’m sure it will once again exceed all of our expectations.