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Twelve hours, One Community, One Goal

Posted 6/01/11 (Wed)

By Olivia Sundeen   
Farmer Staff Writer

“Twelve hours. It can stretch out forever when you are waiting to hear the report on a biopsy. It can literally evaporate when it’s the last hours spent with a dying loved one. Or, it can bring hundreds of people together in the fight against cancer through Relay For Life,” a quote from Sheila Blankenship.
Cancer never sleeps, and for one night communities all over the world walk through the darkness of diagnosis and into the light of a cure. This event is known as Relay For Life. It is a 12-hour event, from dusk to dawn. Relay For Life began in the mid-1980s, but was not officially brought to Watford City until 2002.
The first committee consisted of Joy Brew, Marianne Hoffmann, and Karen Holte. Their goal was to raise $10,000 with the help of 10 teams. They were astonished when they realized they raised $23,000, along with 21 teams that came out to walk in support of the battle against cancer.
As years passed the event continued to grow and grow as more people became involved. The Watford City community has a passion to fight cancer.
“I’m always amazed at the generosity of our sponsors and how many teams sign up to show their support,” stated Myra Anderson. “It is the community involvement that really makes this event as special as it is. Not only the community, but the youth involvement in particular. They are the ones that make this event sparkle.”
Katie Andersen and Zane Frick are two prime examples of the youth involvement in regards to  Relay For Life. Andersen, who participated on teams during her high school career, has continued her work with the relay, and was co-chair on the committee last year. Frick has had similar involvement. He was on the Hair West team in the first Relay For Life in 2002. He went on to serve on the committee during high school and  did not stop there. He participes actively in college and serves on the Great West Division Youth Task Force, serving with other youth from the 12-state division.
Andersen and Frick are just two of the many youth participants that have contributed to the relay. At one time there were at least four youth teams involved in Watford City’s movement to raise awareness of this disease.
 It is safe to say that over these past 10 years Relay For Life has been an event that represents hope.
Joy Brew, an orginal founder and cancer survivor of 15 years, stated, “The opening ceremonies reveal it all. Everyone is there, team members, survivors, and caregivers. As the poems are being read and the surviors are being honored it is an emotional time. It is a reminder that this event is saving more lives each year, such as the ones that walk the Survivor Lap. It is a reminder that no one is in the fight of this disease alone. It is a reminder that there is always hope.”
The Rugged West Relay For Life has gone above and beyond any expectations the committees over the years may have had. Last year, $83,000 was raised. This number is jaw-dropping and going to be hard to beat.
“We are hoping this year we are able to come close to such a high figure,” stated Myra Anderson, co-chair. “Surprisingly, our numbers are down from previous years. This boom has everyone so busy it is hard to make time even for such an important event as the relay.”
In spite of the short supply of participants the relay goes on. One thing that will always hold true for Relay For Life is that it has never been cancelled.
“We have walked through rain so heavy it soaked us to the bone, cold that called for snow pants, heat that melted candles, and wind that blew out the luminarias,” commented Anderson. “We have seen it all. Knock on wood, but we have never not been able to have the relay.”
This year the Rugged West Relay For Life Committee is prepared.
“This has been such a goofy year we would be silly not to have a back-up plan,” stated Anderson.
If the weather decides to play tricks the relay will be held in the fair building. The event would then have to be modified, but as always, the relay would go on.
The Relay For Life started with three women hoping to bring awareness. Their efforts not only grew, but flourished into an event that represents strength for those fighting the battle, with support from friends, family, and the Watford City Community, and hope that one day, cancer will be eliminated.