The Fillmore County Relay for Life chairmen, Sue Sikkink, at left, and Lavonne Menskink, at right, recently hosted a meeting for committee chairs along with Ross Messick, a community relations representative from the American Cancer Society. Volunteers attended the meeting on Monday, Jan. 14, in the Relay for Life room at the Harmony Community Center, to sign up to chair an event that will be part of the Relay for Life on July 12 in Harmony.
The Fillmore County Relay for Life chairmen, Sue Sikkink, at left, and Lavonne Menskink, at right, recently hosted a meeting for committee chairs along with Ross Messick, a community relations representative from the American Cancer Society. Volunteers attended the meeting on Monday, Jan. 14, in the Relay for Life room at the Harmony Community Center, to sign up to chair an event that will be part of the Relay for Life on July 12 in Harmony.
The Fillmore County Relay for Life will be held in Harmony in 2013 and 2014 at the community center grounds. Chairmen Sue Sikkink and Lavonne Mensink have been working diligently since the completion of the 2012 Relay transitioning the organization and planning from the Preston volunteers to those in Harmony willing to carry on the events. A meeting was held on Monday, Jan. 14, to delegate some of the organization duties to local committees and those willing to lead them.

Sikkink and Mensink were joined by Ross Messick, a community relations representative of the American Cancer Society, to explain the Relay purposes and to outline the different aspects of the Relay where volunteers can step in and help.

First of all, Messick explained the reasons Relay for Life events are held, including education, patient services and research.

Money raised through these community events goes to support programs like the Hope Lodge, which provides lodging for cancer patients and their caregivers when seeking treatment away from home.

It also supports programs like Look Good Feel Better, a non-medical public service program that teaches beauty techniques to cancer patients to help them manage the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment. "If you feel better physically, about your appearance, you feel better in here," Messick said, pointing to his chest.

Relay for Life proceeds also go to fund finding cures and treatments, with a majority of funding going to Mayo Clinic and to the University of Minnesota, where the best and brightest researchers are working heard to discover new treatments in the fight against the disease.

The American Cancer Society also lobbies for legislation that promotes healthful living, including anti-smoking and clean-air acts. An example of its success is the legislation requiring smoke-free work environments and public places.

"That's why we do it," Messick said, "but we're also celebrating with your community. We are celebrating hope. We are celebrating people who have survived cancer. We are celebrating those who we have lost to cancer and we are celebrating those who have cared for someone with cancer."

Volunteer opportunities

Messick continued by telling those gathered, "We have work to do and we need some help. We invited you here to help fill a role in planning the event."

He urged the volunteers to sign up for an aspect of the event that they will enjoy doing. "We feel we have enough opportunities to help that we will be able to find the right job for you."

As the chairs highlighted areas where volunteer leaders were needed, many of those attending the meeting signed up to help.

Vicky Christianson volunteered to help with the "banking," recording the donations and entering them online to credit the appropriate team as they come in.

Kathy Broadwater will be organizing the survivor's tea and the survivor's lap, which kicks off the Relay on Friday, July 12, at 4 p.m. This year, the dedication video will once again be created by Gabby Gatzke and will be debuted at the tea. It will also be shown at various times through the night to make sure everyone has an opportunity to see it.

Ann Mraz and Wynn Thatcher will be organizing the luminarias into alphabetical order as they are created. This allows those who purchased luminarias to easily locate them along the Relay for Life walking path.

Frank and Vicki Tribon will be taking care of assembling the luminarias, putting them out along the walking path and collecting them when the event is over. Sikkink explained that the luminarias will go along the path, which will go by every camping spot for the teams.

Melissa Vander Plas will be organizing the Balloons to Heaven event, which allows participants to purchase a balloon and write a message to a loved one in heaven. The balloons will be released with a short program immediately prior to the lighting of the luminarias.

Mavis Brunsvold and Carole Engen are taking care of the silent auction, which will run from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. this year. Each team will be asked to donate one or two baskets, but other items from the community members will also be appreciated.

Todd Himlie will organize the volunteers to help with parking on the day of the event, but also offered to communicate with the Harmony Lions as to helping with the supper. The Fillmore County Pork Producers have already committed to donate shredded pork for sandwiches and other options are still in the works.

Sharon Christianson is in charge of the entertainment and reported that she has already secured a musical group, The Pumper, The Peddler and The Politician. They play classic rock and roll, tunes from the '50s, '60s and '70s. They also play soft rock and a lot of songs that allow for the integration of three-part harmonies. Their playlist includes songs from the Beatles, The Eagles, Simon and Garfunkel, Herman's Hermits, The Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly.

The Pumper is Rick Kritzer from Waseca, a bulk fuel delivery man. The Peddler is Marty Buum from Waseca, a sales representative for an electrical business and The Politician is Tim Penny, once of Waseca and now from Owatonna, a retired politician.

Christianson added that the trio is donating their time and their performance and are not even asking for mileage to travel to the event.

Volunteers are still needed in several areas, including organizing the live auction; creating a race car display and photo-shoot locale; bingo and entertainment for children and someone to chair the supper from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday evening.

A tradition of excellence

This year will be the 17th annual Fillmore County Relay for Life. It started in Harmony and has now come full circle, with each Fillmore County community hosting the event for two years before moving on to the next community.

"The city of Harmony has been very supportive already," noted Sikkink. "They have given us the use of this room for the two years the Relay for Life will be here in Harmony and they have given us the use of the community center and grounds for the event."

She explained the silent auction will be held in the hallways, with tables lined along only one side to allow for greater accessibility and traffic flow.

The survivor's tea, supper and breakfast will be held in the air-conditioned gym, with food prep in the kitchen if needed.

The Fillmore County Relay for Life has traditionally been a successful fundraiser and Messick is convinced that tradition will continue as Harmony takes the torch and carries it forward. In 2011 Fillmore County was recognized as the third top fundraiser in the nation for communities its size. In 2012 it was the fifth top fundraiser nationwide.

"I can already see you have a good group," Messick said. "You are enthusiastic and energetic and are willing to share in the work. I have no doubt you are going to have a great Relay."

Mark your calendar to come out and support the Relay for Life festivities on July 12, beginning at 4 p.m. with the survivor's tea and continuing on through 4 a.m. with the breakfast and awards ceremonies.

If one would like to volunteer to help in any of the areas mentioned above, contact Sikkink at (507) 886-4479 or by emailing suesikkink@yahoo.com. Mensink can be reached at (507) 937-3469 or email her at lavonne.mensink@yahoo.com.