HOPE Soars! at Relay For Life of Waconia

By Todd Moen, Editor

Thanks to an extraordinary amount of dedication and hard work by the participants of the Relay For Life of Waconia, the event has raised more than $263,000 in just two years – and expect that total to increase in just a couple of weeks.

"We have had exceptional community support our first two years," said D.J. Teeselink, the chairwoman of the Relay For Life of Waconia, which will be held for the third time at the Carver County Fairgrounds starting at 4 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 17.

"We are extremely excited to host our third annual Relay For Life of Waconia," said Teeselink, adding that the theme for this year’s event is "HOPE Soars!"

"We invite people of all ages to come and enjoy the Relay atmosphere and help make a difference in the fight against cancer," she said, noting a special invitation is extended to all cancer survivors and caregivers. "It’s a family-friendly event and everyone in our community and beyond is welcome and invited to attend."

The Relay, which is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, was first held in Waconia in 2010. More than 700 participants and 87 survivors attended that inaugural Relay, which raised more than $118,000 for cancer research. In 2011, the event attracted more than 650 participants and 86 survivors and raised more than $145,000.

Teeselink said the goal for 2012 is to raise $150,000 and attract 75 teams and 100 survivors, an attainable objective considering the unique aspects of the Waconia Relay.

"We are spoiled to have an outstanding facility to host our event," said Teeselink, who noted that there is no cost to attend the Relay. "We have a professional stage and sound system and a variety of entertainment and activities and food vendors that will satisfy appetites of all attendees."

Along with the partnerships with local businesses and organizations, Teeselink said the generosity of business owners has provided sponsorships and thousands of dollars in in-kind donations, all efforts that have helped make the Waconia Relay a success.

The 3rd annual Relay For Life of Waconia begins at 4 p.m. when the fairgrounds open to the public. Entertainment, activities and food vendors will open at that time.

Survivor registration begins at 4:30 p.m., followed by the Survivor Dinner at 5 p.m. and the Survivor photo at 6 p.m. Immediately following the photo, enrollment will begin for the Cancer Prevention Study 3 (see related article). Enrollment ends at 10 p.m.

"The Relay For Life of Waconia Opening Ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the grandstands at Carver County Fairgrounds," Teeselink said.

"The community will come together during a high-energy ceremony to celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer as well as those who have provided comfort and care," she continued. "During the Opening Ceremony, we also inspire hope by sharing recent accomplishments and progress of the American Cancer Society and by reminding everyone that while we are making progress, fighting cancer is an on-going priority."

The ceremony will include an inspirational story from Jennifer Keaveny, the Honorary Cancer Survivor for the 3rd annual Relay For Life of Waconia. After the ceremony, attendees are encouraged to cheer on the participants of the Opening Survivor Lap.

Always a touching moment of the Relay, the Luminaria Ceremony will be held later that evening. The Luminaria Ceremony is one of remembrance and hope.

"The Relay For Life of Waconia Luminaria Ceremony will begin at 9:30 p.m. in the grandstands," Teeselink said. "It is a special time in the night to honor survivors and those who have lost the battle to cancer. It is a time to grieve for those we have lost, to reflect on our own or loved ones cancer experience, and to find hope that tomorrow holds the promise of a cancer-free world."

During the Luminaria Ceremony, attendees will reverently walk the path lit with luminaria bags in memory and in honor of those who have battled cancer. The ceremony includes a Silent Lap led by a bagpiper and the personal story of Judy Janish, who is the 2012 Honorary Caregiver.

The Relay will continue on through the night into Saturday morning. At 5 a.m., a pancake breakfast will be served, followed by the closing ceremony.

"The Closing Ceremony will signal an emotional close to the end of one Relay season and the beginning of a new one," said Teeselink, noting that the Closing Ceremony will begin at 6 a.m. in the grandstands.

"During this Fight Back Ceremony, we will reflect on ways we can continue the work we have already done to eliminate cancer for good," she said. "We will celebrate the success of 2012 Relay For Life of Waconia, the hard work of the Steering Committee, Team Captains, participants and contributions of sponsors and donors, survivors, caregivers and the community."

Teeselink thanked the members of the event’s Steering Committee: Amber Bussmann, Beth McCarty, Cindy Solheim, Cindy Van Kirk, Connie McCarty-Robinson, Dean Teeselink, Elizabeth Hackbarth, Greg Eklund, Jennifer Roe, Karen Stulc, Kelly Amott, Kristi Andersen, Linda Stanton, Lisa Amott, Lisa Fontanna, Lorayne Streeter, Lori Stangret, Mary Krupski, Melissa Fischer, Missy Hemze, Tanja Sterdien-Gipe, Tom Nenovich, and Michelle Sletten.

"The Steering Committee spends endless hours planning and preparing for the best Relay yet," Teeselink said. "Without these dedicated volunteers, this Relay would not be possible."

The major sponsors of the Relay are: Carver County Fairgrounds, CenturyLink, Financial Recovery Services, Mackenthun’s, Minneapolis Radiation Oncology, Dr. Paul W. Sperduto, MD, Outdoor Living, Preferred One, Urban Communications, Waconia Area Women of Today, Waconia Farm Supply, and the Waconia Lions Club.

Whether you’re a survivor, care giver, team member or just a member of the general public, consider attending the 3rd annual Relay For Life of Waconia on Aug. 17-18. After all, HOPE Soars! when people work together to end cancer.