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Cancer survivors and victims honored at Relay for Life

This year’s flagbearers are the daughters of Loree Cusey, who recently passed away. The Girl Scouts followed in honor of Cusey who was a Girl Scout leader for many years.1 / 8
Mike Sheeran was the featured speaker. Twenty-three months ago, he was fighting prostate cancer.2 / 8
Jennie Anderson, an 11-month cancer survivor, comforts Kathy Owens, who battled cancer five years ago.3 / 8
Luminaries, purchased before and during Relay for Life, line the track. They are lit as a symbol of hope for those fighting cancer and in remembrance of those who died.4 / 8
Torchbearers Mackenzie Hensel and Kathy Hensel light an eternal flame following the The survivor/caregiver lap around the track.5 / 8
Hubbard County Relay for Life organizers applaud cancer survivors, who all wore purple at the June 9 fundraising event. Madeline Yliniemi (far right) celebrates 40 years as a survivor. Following her is 32-year survivor Anna Johnson, Chuck Yliniemi (20 years) and Kathy Owens (5 years). (Photos by Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)6 / 8
Nichole Weston welcomes cancer survivors and their loved ones to the 2017 Hubbard County Relay for Life. For the first time at the event, the Park Rapids Fire Department raised the American flag high above the high school track. The Star of the North Marine Corps League Honor Guard presented the nation's colors as well.7 / 8
Luminaries, purchased before and during Relay for Life, line the track. They are lit as a symbol of hope for those fighting cancer and in remembrance of those who died.8 / 8

Local cancer survivors, caregivers and supporters united for the 23rd annual Hubbard County Relay for Life.

"We're here to celebrate. We're here to remember. And we're here to fight back," said Bernie Schumacher, mistress of ceremonies at the June 9 fundraising event. "This is a special night for all of us. The Relay for Life is near and dear to my heart. I live with a survivor. I'm friends with survivors. I've been a caregiver, so I get it. I really get it."

Organizers work year-round to raise money for the American Cancer Society, culminating with a ceremony at the Park Rapids Area High School track.

To date, 11 teams had raised $27,895. Proceeds go toward cancer research, cancer prevention and support for cancer patients.

"Our family — and that's all of you because we are all one family — gather together because of the importance of this event. A lot of emotions take place around this track every single year: Happiness, sadness, support, the continuous support of caregivers every day to see their loved one through each day. That's why we're here: To support each other," Schumacher continued. "Tonight we are here so those who face cancer can be supported. Those who have lost their battle, we will not forget. We don't forget. And some day, we hope and pray, with your financial support, cancer will be eliminated."

Guest speaker was Park Rapids businessman Mike Sheeran, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer about two years ago. It had spread to his lymph nodes, pelvis, spine and ribs, but he went into remission.

Everybody knows someone touched by cancer, he said.

He grew up on a hobby farm, attending both Menahga and Park Rapids schools.

"In these years, I've watched classmates from both towns lose their lives to cancer," Sheeran said.

He urged men to get their PSA checked.

"Eat your fruits and veggies. Drink lots of water. It might sound funny," Sheeran said, but his most recent scan shows only scarring. There are no malignant tumors.

"At this moment there is a celebration for hope," he continued. "Some day, with that last dollar given tonight, it may be the dollar that may save your child or your loved one or someone else so they can say 'I am cancer-free.'"

Calli Ferdig, an American Cancer Society community manager, also spoke Friday evening.

"Although fundraising is not all we do at the American Cancer Society, all that we do depends on it," she said. "Everybody we help in this county, across the state and the world is only possible because of the funds raised in events like tonight."

Last year, the American Cancer Society provided various services to 530 locals. Support included free or reduced lodging, free transportation, free wigs, lessons to help cancer patients cope with appearance after chemotherapy and more.

"Today, two out of three people diagnosed with cancer are survivors," she noted, adding death rates from cancer in the U.S. have dropped 20 percent since 1990.

The American Cancer Society's goal is for three out of three to survive.

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