Debra Young, like many who participate each year in Montcalm County’s Relay for Life, knows what it’s like to live with the fear and uncertainty of a cancer diagnoses. About 20 years ago, her husband, Marc Young, received the bad news from his doctor.
Twenty years later, Marc is still going strong and cancer free. Beating the illness wasn’t enough for the Youngs, however. Debra wanted to do what she could to raise both money and awareness with regard to cancer. She does that these days by participating in Relay for Life.
“I don’t think you can pick one thing that’s most important about Relay,” Young said. “It’s important to get the public awareness out there, but it’s also important to raise money for research, patient care and lodging for those undergoing cancer treatments. There are so many things the Relay people do to help. It important because so many are coming together to help fight cancer.”
This year’s event in Montcalm County is slated for June 15-16 at Montcalm Community College in Sidney. Local organizers have helped support other “mini-relays” as well, such as the one that took place Monday at Walnut Hills Elementary School in Greenville.
According to Montcalm County Relay for Life Event Chairwoman Elizabeth Klingbeil, the mini-relay was a chance for kids who may not be old enough for the grueling two-day pace of the larger event a chance to participate. The mini is just one aspect of Relay’s phenomenal growth in the county.
“Our Relay has definitely grown over the years,” Klingbeil said. “I’ve been involved personally for about 12 years. I got involved through friends, then about four years ago my mom was diagnosed.
I got into it pretty hardcore after that. My mom is doing awesome, by the way. She’s cancer free now.”
Klingbeil adds that this is an important time to be involved with Relay, as many promising studies have surfaced in recent years in both prevention and treatment.
This is the first year the event is being held at Montcalm Community College. Though the move from Greenville High School was prompted primarily by construction there, Klingbeil says the new venue is going to be a great change for the better.
“This works out very well for us,” Klingbeil said. “MCC has been fantastic. They’re a big part of it, but they’re letting us have full rein.”
This year’s event will feature live bands, a ribbon cutting ceremony, opening ceremonies, a dunk tank, silent auction, balloon toss, luminaria ceremony and many other activities. Though the weekend promises to be fun for all who attend, the underlying purpose is serious.
“We want people to understand that those who are going through cancer treatments don’t feel very well,” Klingbeil said. “The long walk gives us a glimpse as to what these individuals are going through.”
Organizers are hoping to raise $75,000 at the event.
“We raise it every year to push ourselves,” Klingbeil said. “We’re hoping that with the fundraising before, during and after until the end of August that we should be able to make it.”
For more information on getting involved in this year’s Relay for Life, visit www.relayforlife.org.