The Major Heroes team from Preston rallies to support Eugene Majors, a cancer survivor, and raise money for cancer research at the Relay For Life taking place in Harmony on July 11. SUBMITTED PHOTO
The Major Heroes team from Preston rallies to support Eugene Majors, a cancer survivor, and raise money for cancer research at the Relay For Life taking place in Harmony on July 11. SUBMITTED PHOTO
July is a month of celebration. One of the biggest holidays in America, the Fourth of July opens out the month. People travel all over the country to attend family reunions. Firework displays may leave a person shaking or half deaf from the sound and appreciating the brilliant colors and patterns lighting up the night sky. That is fitting the day celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

But there is a celebration laced with urgency that people of this day may feel closer to and which may have deeper meaning to them than something that happened 238 years ago. This is the Relay For Life.

This year, the Relay for Life arrives just a week after Independence Day, on Friday, July 11. The event, which celebrates the cancer survivors, remembers those lost to cancer and fights back against the disease through fundraising, is set to be held at the Harmony Community Center with the tea beginning at 4 p.m. and activities continuing through the night and into the early morning hours.

Cancer is all around. It comes in so many different places, types and forms. Pretty much every person has run across it in friends, family or themselves. And they are all eager to find an ultimate cure for the harrowing disease.

The Relay For Life gives people the chance to demonstrate their support and raise money to create the possibility of a cure.

Currently, there are 29 teams signed up to be a part of the event including 307 participants, according to the Fillmore County Relay For Life site.

One team, Major Heroes headed by Marilyn Schreier, has been together for several years, making this year's Relay its fourth year.

"I started in the Relay For Life four years ago as a part of the Ramblin' Rosebud's team. After I got involved in the team, I said I should get together my own team," Schreier commented.

And she did. She formed a team with several friends and family members and now her team consists of 13 people. The reason she got involved with Relay For Life is simple. Her family was greatly affected by cancer.

"I Relay for my mom who died from kidney and colon cancer. I also lost a sister-in-law to cancer. My dad is a cancer survivor. The team members also have friends and family affected," she stated.

Not all of the team members even live in the area. Her sister comes to Fillmore County to participate in the Relay for Life as a part of the team to support her father and celebrate his triumph over cancer as he walks the survivor lap.

In the past, Major Heroes has been one of the top teams earning money. Some of their fundraisers involved selling fruit pizza and caramel apples.

"We sold different breakfast things in the past. Last year we also sold a bead for every lap a person walked to help with the fundraiser," Schreier noted.

This year is a little different for the Major Heroes team, however. Due to some health issues of her own, Schreier's team will not be doing as much this year.

"I'm the instigator of our team. If I don't do it, it won't be done. And I just can't function without a good sleep anymore," she shared.

Even if her team may not be able to be a part of spearheading the fundraising this year, Schreier and her team have been very instrumental in previous years partly because of their fundraising. And Schreier herself has been a leader in the Relay For Life in the past.

"I was asked to be on the committee for the Relay For Life when it rotated to Preston a few years ago," she said.

Still, the team will be supporting the Relay and doing some fundraising.

"We have been asked to serve a dinner. We will also be selling luminaries for people to purchase in memory of someone or in honor of someone still alive, and we will be putting up posters for the event," she listed.

As darkness invades on the day of the Relay event, hundreds of lighted luminaries will shine the way for walkers, each representing those affected by cancer in some way. But one other action will make the Relay even more special.

For several years, participants in the Relay have been able to write and send messages to friends and loved ones who died because of cancer. In a special Balloons to Heaven event, individuals can purchase helium-filled balloons and decorate them with graphics or personal messages to their loved ones.

"When I first saw the messages and balloons going up, it was very touching to see," Schreier described.

Cancer is very real and too many people have experienced the heartache and trials that accompany the disease. But there are also many people dedicated to finding a cure for cancer in some way, whether it be through raising money or research.

"If I can raise money for research, hopefully someday no one will get it. And though we won't be doing as much this year, we will support everyone who has had cancer and support the research so everyone could have more birthdays," Schreier concluded.