Rushford Relay for Life event ready to Give Cancer The Boot

TCR/Craig Johnson Megan Ekern and Jim Stennes at last year’s Relay for Life event in Rushford.
By : 
Kathleen Lynn
Tri-County Record

Relay for Life organizers are prepared to “Give Cancer the Boot” when the Fillmore County event returns to Rushford on Friday, July 13 at the Rushford Depot Museum. 

Events will begin 4 p.m. with the Survivor’s Tea, and end at 2 a.m. with the Final Lap. There are numerous free, fun events that allow people to support the American Cancer Society through donations, but also their support to the area cancer fighters, survivors, families, and their loved ones. So far, Rushford’s teams of volunteers have raised $50,000 towards their goal of $109,000 for the event..

Last year, Rushford hosted their first “Knock Out Cancer” Fillmore County Relay for Life event, which raised $114,000 through the efforts of 23 teams, countless volunteers, supporters, and sponsors. The event will move to Lanesboro for 2019 and 2020. Fillmore County has been hosting Relay for Life events for the American Cancer Society for just over 20 years. 

Beth Tudahl and Jim Stennes have returned to serve as co-chairs for the Rushford event. Like many relay participants, Tudahl and Stennes have had family members affected by cancer, and decided to fight back. The pair has participated in the Relay for Life since 2004, when they started a team. By 2017, Tudahl and Stennes were instrumental in bringing the event to Rushford, then working as co-chairs for the event. 

Currently there are 20 registered teams for the 2018 event, and at least six are Rushford-based. More teams are expected to sign up prior to the actual startup deadline. Prior to the main event, the teams host various events: bake sales, carwashes, and other activities that draw in donations. 

Teams also gather items for both live and silent auctions held at the Relay for Life event. At the SEMBA Bluegrass Fest held at Cushon’s Peak campground in May, teams and volunteers ran a concession stand to benefit the Relay for Life and raised roughly $2,000. 

Tudahl said she participates in two teams; one raised a total of $800 by selling daffodils. One team in Whalan brought in $1,400 in proceeds from a bake sale and a carwash. 

There will be a chair given away at the event that was donated by Drury’s Furniture in Fountain, Minn. Through all the hard work of the volunteers, they have been able to collect donations that are important for the cause of fighting cancer. All donations go to the American Cancer Society.

The Community Supper will be held at the Rushford American Legion, with a cost of $7 a meal. “The volunteers are hoping that the supper once again is a big hit this year, and they run out of food, again.” Tudahl said. 

There is a special ceremony planned at 6 p.m. to honor area cancer survivors. Some will speak about their battles and victories in how they became cancer-free. Each survivor gets a “victory walk” down the aisle. “It is touching when evidencing the support that is there for [survivors] at the event,” Stennes said. “They are heroes. It’s great to see many people who survive many years, many bouts, and types of cancer. It gives hope and strength to all.” 

Andrew Klein, a talented balloon artist, will perform free for the crowds from 6:30-8:30 p.m.  

Several popular activities from last year will be returning. Campsite food sales start at 8 p.m. and go throughout the evening. Baked potatoes, walking tacos, cakes and coffee, and various baked goods are some of the items to be offered. 

The Luminaria Ceremony will start at 9:30 p.m., with the actual lighting to start at 9:40 p.m. Luminaries can be purchased from Tudahl at Rushford Foods from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. until July 12. Cost is $10 each, or three for $25. Luminaries can be personalized prior to lighting and placement.

Free bingo (with prizes) will be held from 11-12:30 p.m. at the Rushford American Legion. Music will be played during bingo until 2 a.m., when the event will wrap up with a Final Lap. 

Tudahl credits the support of the many local teams, volunteers, and businesses that make the relay a success. The Rushford American Legion has again donated the use of their facilities for the Community Supper. The Depot Museum has also offered its space, and Rushford Lutheran Church has hosted each planning meeting for the last two years in its Fellowship Hall. The silent auction will be held in the Atkinson Construction building, formerly Roy’s Small Engine. 

Printed posters and schedules are being posted around Fillmore County, and are appearing in printed papers. There is a Facebook page for the event called “Relay for Life of Fillmore County MN” that has photos and more information. Donations can also be made through this page.

Stennes wants “all to know any can come, walk, eat supper participate in the games, and bid at the renowned silent and live auctions. For everyone that has cancer, they need support, even if you don’t know them. Cancer is everywhere. It is great to see the survivors and supporters.”