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The Relay for Life torch bearers this year are St. Joseph's Home Care and Hospice staff members, front, from left, Beth Funk and Betsy Meyer, back, Cindy Little, Tracey Skadberg, Teresa Etter, Nancy Reynolds and Laurel Hed. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Relay for Life event is Friday

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Cancer survivors, family members and volunteers will converge at the Park Rapids Area High School track Friday for the 18th annual Hubbard County American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

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This year's theme is "Imagine a world with more birthdays." The event is dedicated to caregivers.

From 1 p.m. to 1 a.m., more than 20 teams will pace the track in an effort to raise money for cancer research.

Torchbearers are St. Joseph's Home Care and Hospice staff members.

Chemotherapy nurses will greet the survivors and send them off to walk with the torch-bearing team.

"Typically, we deal with end of life," said Beth Funk, St. Joseph's Home Care and Hospice director. "Friday, we celebrate survivors."

Home care and hospice see both spectrums, she said of physical healing and end of life. "We work well with oncology."

The partnering of oncology and hospice symbolizes coordination of care between the hospital departments, the Relay for Life providing an ironic twist.

Marti Fischer of oncology typically hands over patients to hospice and home care, Funk said. "Now she will be handing us survivors.

"For us, this is a welcome celebration," Funk said. "We don't always see the healing side. This is a great honor. People are scared of hospice, and the death and dying" it represents.

"It's nice to be on the flip side."

Teams consist of eight people or more and are expected to raise at least $100 per team member before the walk by asking for donations and selling luminaries for $5 each.

New this year, are white luminary bags for caregivers. A person can purchase a yellow caregiver bag for $5. These bags are to recognize someone who helped a cancer survivor during their illness.

Examples would be the person who drove you to treatments, the neighbor that came and sat with you so your spouse could go out, the person who added you to their prayers, someone who made you meals so you didn't have to. These bags are yellow and will have a special display place in the track area. They can be purchased from any Relay team member, or at any bank in Park Rapids.

At the Relay for Life, the luminary bags lining the track will be lit as a symbol of hope for those currently struggling with cancer and in remembrance of those who have lost the battle. Luminary bags can be purchased from any Relay for Life team member, at the relay or at any of the three banks in Park Rapids.

At 7 p.m. everyone is welcome to a special ceremony introducing participating teams and cancer survivors. At that time, survivors will take a special walk around the track. About 100 cancer survivors usually participate in the Relay for Life; more than 50 are already registered for this year's event. Cancer survivors interested in joining the survivor lap are asked to show up at the track by 6:30 p.m. to register.

During the ceremony, "Hope" and "Cure" signs will be lit. Each sign holds 45 luminaries, sold for $25 apiece. People who purchase the purple luminaries will be invited to light them personally. To purchase a Hope or Cure luminary, contact Rose Higgins at 732-3366 (work) or 732-5308 (home).

This year, there will be a wish lantern lighting and release after the ceremony.

Teams also will have booths lining the track, selling concessions and sponsoring silent auction and drawings to raise even more funds for the American Cancer Society.

Hungry walkers and observers can purchase tacos, homemade ice cream sandwiches, root beer floats, Italian beef sandwiches, BBQ beef sandwiches, burgers, lemonade and Menahga bakery pies.

Teams also offer games for children and family activities, including a bean bag toss, a basketball shoot, horse rides and face painting. Mike Torkelson from Duluth serves as DJ, providing music.

You don't have to be on a team to participate. Come out enjoy a fun evening, walk the track, visit with friends, enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere, play a few games, eat some food and watch the survivor lap.

For more information call event co-chairs Judy Garbo at 732-4813 or Rita Hocking at 732-4537.

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