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'Relay' raises $67K

Auctioneer Jack Sliver (behind podium) takes bids for beach chairs with the help of co-chair Sheila Koob at the Nobles County Relay For Life Friday night in Worthington. The auction raised more than $1,800 to help fight cancer. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- Cheryl Uphoff had just finished talking about the family members who have been affected by cancer.

It was then her granddaughter walked by.

"I do it for her, too," Uphoff said, putting her arm around her granddaughter. "For all of us."

Friday night was the annual Relay For Life of Nobles County event at the Nobles County Fairgrounds. It was a night to remember those lost to cancer, honor survivors and raise money to find a cure.

"It's gotten to be a passion for me," Uphoff said. "I get really emotional about it. I lost my daughter to cancer, I have a brother that's gone through bone marrow transplant, I have a sister-in-law that's had breast cancer, another daughter who's fighting melanoma and who knows what's going to happen to me or my husband or the rest of my family. The in-law side of the family, they've lost some members to cancer. We need to find a cure and beat this beast down to the ground."

In all, Nobles County Relay For Life has raised $67,146.13 this year. That's short of their $76,000 net goal. However, the year doesn't end until August, allowing for more donations to be made.

Uphoff was part of the Jennifer Powers' Family team. It was named in honor of her daughter, Jennifer.

"We lost her at the age of 33 to a cancerous brain tumor," Uphoff said. "She left behind a husband and three young children. Jennifer's Family also consists of some of her in-laws, her husband's family and some of our family that have either had cancer, survived it so far or is fighting cancer. It's a family effort to be here every year to work at this. It's just such a joy to see all these people here, all these survivors and they work just as hard as we do. It's a real pleasure to be here and do this."

Jennifer's Family was serving cheesy turkey sandwiches, caramel apple slices, bars and crafty items. The team also had a ring toss and had an inflatable for the children. All the proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.

"The funds will hopefully find those cures and maybe they won't have to put up with any cancer and maybe there's going to be vaccine. We don't know what's going to happen," Uphoff said. "There have been so many cures for different types of cancers already. There are a lot more deadly ones out there yet, we are just scratching the surface, there is a long way to go. I hope I see it in my lifetime. As long as I'm able I'm going to keep doing this."

On the other end of the building sat a picture of a monkey as a mascot for Mike's Monkeys, a team in honor of Mike Ahrens.

"That lovely monkey belonged to Mike's friend and he got married and his wife refused to let it in the house, so Mike said, 'I love it, I'll take it,'" said Mike's wife, Paula. "We started dating and it hung in his house, of course, and I thought it was the ugliest thing on earth, but when we got married, he wouldn't let me take it down. Finally, it hung in one of my rooms until Nicholas graduated and we painted the house. Then I made him move it out to the garage. Then it hung out in the garage and stared at everybody out there."

Mike's Monkeys was selling nachos, freeze pops, root beer out of a keg and popcorn balls -- which proved to be a big hit.

"It's fun, it's family time," Ahrens said. "It's remembering, it's hoping that someday there will be a cure."

And everyone who supported Mike's Monkeys Friday night had to contend with the picture of the monkey sitting in a lawn chair next to the booth.

"If you look at it, his eyes follow you," Ahrens said. "We had it at the funeral and home and my niece, during the prayer service, starts giggling. She goes, 'The monkey is looking at me.' It's just part of Mike."

It was the second year for Ahrens at the Relay For Life event. The team started last year, "because of Mike, because of cancer taking his life," she said. "When it's closer to home, then it's more real. You give to things throughout the year, but this way was a way to get together and hopefully find a cure one day."

The event also featured the chair auction, which was rescheduled from the weekend of the Windsurfing Regatta and Unvarnished Music Festival. The proceeds also went to Relay For Life.

"I thought, for having to reschedule the auction, it went very well. We got good bids as far as I was concerned and I thought it went very well," said Daily Globe Regional Operations Manager Lori Caster. "Because we had to reschedule it, I think this was a perfect opportunity to reschedule it. At the Regatta, I don't know if it would have been any better, but what a better opportunity for the Relay for Life to hold the chair auction."

In total, the auction raised $1,870.

"With the weather, I think we had a very good night," said Relay co-chair Kim Lambert. "We had a lot of people out here. I don't know if some people stayed away because of the heat, it got so calm and hot. I think more people came out because of the chairs, at least I hope they did."

As part of the American Cancer Society, Relay For Life events are held throughout the year across the entire United States.

"This year, we are celebrating our 100th birthday of the American Cancer Society, which was actually about a month ago on May 22," said Greg Rossow, who does Community Relations for ACS. "As far as the organization, we deem this the start of the last century for cancer. The American Cancer Society is 100 years old, but we're trying to put ourselves out of business and we want to go out of business because we found a cure for cancer. We've made a lot of strides, but a great event like Nobles County Relay For Life, which is one of about 6,000 across the United States, this is what we need."

Because of the high wind, the luminaries weren't able to be lit Friday night.

"For people that this was the first time they attended Relay, they didn't get the full experience of it," Lambert said. "But they need to make sure they come back."

And for people like Uphoff, there is no stopping until a cure is found.

"We'll just keep doing it until we say we got it done," she said. "We want to thank everybody that's come out to support us out here. It's just marvelous to see the turnout of people that come out. This expands every year and it gets better in here all the time."

Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen can be reached at 376-7323.