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Relay for Life raises $75,000

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe TOP: Walkers pass the lit luminaries during Friday night's Relay For Life event at the Nobles County Fairgrounds in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- More than 100 cancer survivors gathered around the stage at the Nobles County Relay for Life Friday night to release Monarch butterflies symbolizing life and hope for a care-free world without cancer.

The annual event, conducted at the Nobles County Fairgrounds in Worthington, raises money for the American Cancer Society to fund research, education and advocacy. By the end of the night, nearly $75,000 had been raised -- short of the $80,000 goal -- but money continues to be collected from team fundraisers and the silent auction.

The final tallies were announced shortly after midnight in a new, shortened Relay event. Team members, cancer survivors and caregivers then took one final lap around the luminary-lined track to celebrate those who have fought and won their battle against cancer, remember those whose lives were lost and pledge to continue the fight.

Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back.

Those words were front and center during this 15th annual Nobles County event.

For several first-time attendees, those last two words -- fight back -- may just as well have been their battle cry.

Kristin Schmidt, Leroy Domagala and Lisa Dodge were among cancer survivors wearing purple shirts that said, "Happy Birthday is our Victory Song."

Domagala finished his last treatment in January and, while he's still working to get his pre-cancer strength back, he proudly took the survivor's lap around the luminary-lined track -- joining fellow Adrian resident Barb Thier.

"When the doctor told me I might have eight months to live, it wakes you up and makes you decide you want to enjoy life a little bit and do a few things you want," he said. "When he tells you that you're clean, it just makes you feel like heaven."

Domagala was at his first Relay for Life event with his wife, Rita, to not only celebrate his life as a survivor, but to be celebrated.

Said Kristin Schmidt of Worthington, who continues to undergo treatments for breast cancer, "I never knew that so many people in the community were so giving and outreaching."

Diagnosed on Dec. 23, Schmidt has four more sessions of chemotherapy before her surgery, with another six months of chemo to follow.

"It's amazing to see the people come out (to the Relay) and the money they raise from this," she said. "The release of butterflies showing life and freedom ... is so uplifting, and that's what us cancer survivors need -- it gives a light at the end of the tunnel."

Like Schmidt, Lisa Dodge of Larchwood, Iowa, also underwent treatment for breast cancer.

"It was one year ago today that I was diagnosed," she said Friday night.

With three sisters, one brother, her mother and her in-laws joining her for the Relay, Dodge said the event was "very touching."

"I really enjoyed (Honorary Relay Chairwoman Nancy Teerink's) talk," she said. "It was just something I went through. It was very touching -- very emotional."

Seventeen teams, ranging from local businesses to families, worked to raise money for the 2011 Relay for Life in Nobles County. On Friday night, many of them continued their fundraising efforts by selling food, hand-made items and other trinkets.

Trisha Powers of Worthington helped out her team, Jennifer's Family, by selling hot turkey sandwiches, cupcakes (the Relay's theme is Celebrating a world with more Birthdays), beverages and even books.

It was Powers' fifth year on the team.

"The reason why (I relay) is because of my family," she said. "I'm doing this for my children and grandchildren so they don't get cancer."

Powers said cancer claimed her dad, brother, three sisters, a sister-in-law and a niece. She has one niece and one nephew who are cancer survivors.

The 16 members on the Jennifer's Family team -- the youngest being Powers' three-year-old grandson, Jacob Buxengard -- had raised nearly $3,800 through luminary sales and serving food at auctions throughout the year.

"This is my way to help our family fight cancer," Powers said.

While more money is yet to be turned in for this year's Relay, team totals as of Friday night are as follows: AOK (Arts Optimists Kiwanis) Club, $250; Avera-Worthington Specialty Clinic, $3,612; Banking for a Cure (First State Bank Southwest), $3,920; Bedford Technology, $236; Bonnie's Walkers, $5,567; Boy Scouts, $417; Daily Globe, $1,428; Farley's & Sather's, $24,036; Intervet, $546; JBS, $10,838; Jennifer's Family, $3,794; Maurices, $1,135; Pizza Ranch, $1,037; Sanford Worthington, $6,818; UFCW Local 1161, $770; Wells Fargo, $259; and PTK (Phi Theta Kappa) Walkers, $759.

Additional money was raised through sponsorships and Coaches versus Cancer events at Worthington High School, Ellsworth High School and Minnesota West Community and Technical College.

Nobles County Relay for Life co-chair Kim Lambert said she was "extremely satisfied" with this year's Relay, even though they didn't quite make their goal. Teams are encouraged to continue raising money.

As for the change in location at the fairgrounds and the new, 5 p.m. to midnight Relay event, Lambert said the changes were a success.

"I've heard wonderful comments from lots of people," she said.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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