Members of The Shooting Stars team pose for a photo at the start of the 2013 Relay for Life in Harmony. The team has been participating in the fundraiser since 1997. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Members of The Shooting Stars team pose for a photo at the start of the 2013 Relay for Life in Harmony. The team has been participating in the fundraiser since 1997. SUBMITTED PHOTO
July in Minnesota means the anticipation of tasseling corn, the realization for students that summer is half spent, and, for many like Lanesboro's Katlyn Peterson, the focused energy in making the annual Fillmore County Relay for Life a success.

Katlyn and her brother, Erik, have spent their summers devoting time to the Relay for Life team, The Shooting Stars, founded by their mother, Diane Peterson.

Sue Sikkink of Harmony has been captain of The Shooting Stars since 2004, but the team has been working together to raise money for cancer research for the past 18 years. The Shooting Stars first began with Diane in 1997.

Diane was diagnosed with stage four Metastatic Inflammatory Breast Cancer in January of 1997, just months before her first Relay; she was 30 at the time.

At 5 years old, Katlyn's perspective of this journey was limited as she walked with her mom and other members of The Shooting Stars when the team began. As adults, Katlyn and Erik continue to fight alongside The Shooting Stars, becoming official members of the Relay for Life team in 2003 and 2005.

"Year after year, I love being able to continue what my mom started, alongside my family and friends," noted Katlyn, a recent graduate of South Dakota State University.

Erik isn't the only member of Katlyn's family that joins her in the battle against cancer with The Shooting Stars. Judy Starr, Katlyn's aunt, of Rochester has been a team member since 1998. Judy remembers being in awe at her first Relay and the luminaries, she said, were the best part of it.

"The fact that we were there to remember our loved ones and to celebrate the survivors was amazing, and it was so beautiful to see all of the luminaries when they were lit up," Judy said.

After just one Relay for Life, Judy knew this was something she wanted to continue in order to support her sister and fight by her side.

In 1999, Diane delivered the opening speech and carried the banner in the Survivor's Lap at the Relay for Life. Though she tired easily, Diane was determined to carry on until the end of the Relay. The Shooting stars were so proud of their strong, motivated captain.

Diane lost her battle with cancer in 2000, weeks before the Relay was held in Lanesboro, where she lived with her family.

"It was difficult for the whole team; we had lost our captain," noted Judy.

Though The Shooting Stars have been blessed with two other captains, Karla Strom and Sue Sikkink, who have continued what Diane started, Katlyn and Judy still remember why they fight: to preserve the memory of Diane and to acknowledge her hard work and contributions towards the Relay for Life.

When Judy was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, The Shooting Stars gathered together in support. Judy never imagined that she would be walking the Survivor's Lap and though it was hard at first, her team members kept her going. It was then that she fully understood Diane's desire to make a difference by starting a team.

Throughout the year, The Shooting Stars hold several fundraisers in hopes of reaching their goal of $10,000. One of these fundraisers included the team's first ever four-person Best Shot Golf Fundraiser at the Old Barn Resort on May 31. With 18 teams, a silent auction and sponsorships, the team surpassed its fundraising goal of $3,000 by $8.75.

The first place team members, Brad Sikkink, Joel Voca, Josh Ristau and Trevor Olson, generously donated a portion of their cash winnings back to the Relay.

To date, The Shooting Stars team has reached $9,500 with donations coming in everyday, and there's a lot more fundraising to do.

Friday, July 11, marks the day of the Fillmore County Relay for Life in Harmony and teams continue to sell luminaries, fact sign sponsorships, T-shirts and memorials throughout the night with one goal in mind: to raise money to help find a cure for cancer.

Teams continue to raise money through the night and early morning hours of the Relay for Life, all of which goes toward ongoing cancer research and funds programs in Fillmore County that help local individuals fight cancer.

Diane took part in some of these programs and was grateful to be able to borrow a walker from the American Cancer Society. She also attended their local support meetings.

"Our team works well together and we have lots of fun raising money for the Relay for Life. We are truly blessed in Fillmore County," said Sikkink.

Fillmore County Relay for Life has a combined goal of $128,000 this year, with $73,000 recorded thus far.

"I am fortunate to be a member of this team. My heart belongs to The Shooting Stars, Diane, and our awesome team members. The Relay is a worthwhile event and can be inspiring to everyone who attends," said Judy.

Katlyn, Judy and The Shooting Stars join 28 other teams on July 11 to honor all individuals and families affected by cancer.

To find out more about Fillmore County's Relay for Life, to check out the 29 teams involved and to donate to the cause, visit relayforlife.org/fillmoremn.