Lanesboro brings hope to town as it hosts 2019 Relay for Life

BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP FILE PHOTO Luminaries line the path of the 2018 Relay for Life, held last year in Rushford. This year’s event will be held in Lanesboro’s Sylvan Park on Friday, July 12.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

“There’s no place like HOPE. There’s no place like HOPE!”

And the flying cancer monkey can take a leap off the Wicked Witch of the West’s turrets.

“This year’s theme is ‘There is no place like HOPE,’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ was the inspiration,” stated Susan Peterson, Lanesboro resident and 2019-2020 Fillmore County Relay for Life co-chair. She announced the theme of the 2019 American Cancer Society (ACS) Relay that will be held in the Lanesboro Veterans Community Center and throughout Sylvan Park in downtown Lanesboro on Friday, July 12.

Susan Peterson and co-chair Michele Peterson, of the Relay team Root River Rascals, are excited to welcome the Relay to Lanesboro.

Michele Peterson recently spoke about the Relay, as the weeks have flown by since they began planning how to transform the park’s avenues into the yellow brick road, an endeavor that promises that ACS and other cancer researchers will have the means to be two heel-clicks closer to finding the ultimate Oz – a cure for cancer.

She stated, “I think it is great that Lanesboro is hosting the Relay. Lanesboro is fortunate to be celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, so that makes it just a little more special. There has been great support from the community and the surrounding communities. I think we are all excited to have the Relay back in Lanesboro this year. Planning has been a long process – at least nine months or maybe longer — however, we are very blessed to have had so many people volunteer to make it all happen.”

With two weeks left before the Relay’s first event, there are at least 18 teams set to participate in the annual ACS fundraiser. “It is truly amazing how many people are touched by cancer. It’s eye-opening. I think there is also power in support, in knowing that you are not alone – there is help out there. I’m not really sure how many people to expect, but hopefully many, and hopefully we introduce this great event to people who are not aware. The support is amazing. We have many community organizations and individuals who have volunteered. We, of course, hope to be very successful in our fundraising efforts…we also hope to be successful in letting people know about the resources that are out there to help.”

The Relay is slated to take place mostly outdoors, but if the sky fills with clouds, there’s always the community center for shelter. “We will try to bring it inside as much as possible if necessary, but I am sure we will have beautiful weather,” Michelle said.

The evening begins with the Survivors’ Tea at 3 p.m. in the upstairs level of the Lanesboro Community Center, followed by the community supper from 5 to 7 p.m. in the dining room downstairs. From 4 to 6 p.m., “Sister Luv,” the quartet comprised of the Blankenship-Watson sisters from Spring Valley, will be performing in the gazebo in Sylvan Park, with kids’ games beginning at 5:30 and continuing through 7 p.m.

The opening ceremony will begin at 6 p.m., after which the survivors and caregivers attending the Relay will take their lap around the track, teams will be recognized, and photographs taken.

A silent auction’s part of the Relay as well – that begins at 6:30 p.m. with final bids being made around 9 p.m. in the community center. The live auction will immediately ensue the team recognition at 6:30.

Michelle was pleased to add that at 7 p.m., Relay teams will sell items at their campsites to help raise funds for the ACS, that Pete Klug Music will perform at 8:15 p.m. in the gazebo, the annual Balloons to Heaven balloon release that sends balloons skyward in memory and honor of those who have had cancer is on the schedule at 7:30 p.m. Bingo will be offered from 10 to 11:30 p.m., a deejay will provide music from 10 p.m. to midnight, the final lap ceremony is at 11:45, and cleanup to leave Sylvan Park as sparkling as the teams found it will round out the evening at midnight.

Michelle stated that the luminaries will be placed throughout the park, lighting up the yellow brick road with glimmers of hope that can stand against the prospect of cancer – something that might feel like a house falling on a person – and that she looks forward to seeing people there, from Tin Man to Munchkin, small to tall.

“The survivors’ lap, as well as the lighting of the luminaries, are the most meaningful parts of the Relay. The survivors and caregivers are amazingly strong individuals,” Michelle said. “I don’t think I have a favorite part…maybe the lighting of the luminaries. Our family has always been a fan of the ‘heads or tails’ game. You don’t have to be on a team. Everyone is welcome to come and participate or just take it all in.”

She shared that planning the Relay for the entire county has been “overwhelming at times, however, also rewarding.”

Michelle said, “All of the little details are challenging, however, past organizers have been great to bounce ideas off of, as well as lend that knowledge of past events and what worked and what did not. It has been great to get to know other teams through the planning process. Just getting to be a part of this is a reward.”

At the end of the Relay, she will acknowledge the hard work put into it and stand back to survey the hope that’s been spread. “I won’t lie – there will be relief, but also satisfaction for hopefully having coordinated a successful event,” she added.

For those who can’t attend because they’ve been beset by obstacles on their way to the park where’s “There’s no place like HOPE,” there are still ways to help raise funds and awareness of the Relay and its mission.

“The possibilities are endless! I think the more we talk about things, the more we educate people, and hopefully make it so that people feel less isolated, and of course, receive more help and support. But come one, come all. We would love to have you here. It’s really great how all of the communities of Fillmore County have come together to raise funds for cancer research – this is a really great opportunity to raise funds for cancer research,” Michelle concluded.

Fillmore County’s 2019 Relay for Life will take place in Sylvan Park in Lanesboro on Friday, July 12. The park is located at 202 Parkway Ave. S., Lanesboro.

For more information on the Fillmore County Relay for Life, log onto the county’s Relay Facebook page at