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The Rebels of Relay

by Chelsea Cliff
July 12, 2017

Relay for Life

Luminaries at the Austin, MN Relay for Life in 2016. Mower County's Relay for Life was unable to set them out last year on the day of the event due to rain. They set them out at a later date.

Luminaries glowing, tennis shoes tightly laced, and spirits high! At the annual Relay for Life event, there is laughter, music, food, themed decorations, and much more. But most important of all - there is hope. Hope in the fight against cancer.

Relay for Life is an unforgettable evening of walking and running, lasting anywhere from six to 24 hours. Started in 1985 by Dr. Gordon Klatt in Tacoma, Washington, the annual Relay has been growing ever since and has raised over $5 billion worldwide.

All proceeds raised at these events are donated to the American Cancer Society to support the relentless fight against cancer. There are many relays throughout the year, hosted in multiple cities across the United States. Finding a relay to participate in is easy - just visit this event finder.

Cheryl Retterath, Branch Manager of Sterling State Bank’s office in Lyle, MN, has been involved with Relay for Life of Mower County since 1992. She first got involved when she joined the Sterling State Bank Austin team and since then she has continued the tradition, with her own family.

“In ’92 nobody I knew had cancer,” Cheryl recalls. “Then in 1994 my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer – and it hit home even more so after that.” That’s when Cheryl made the commitment to fight back and first got involved with Relay for Life. All these years later, she’s still involved and has only missed one relay in 25 years. Her current team is called the ‘Retterath Rebels’ and consists of herself, along with her husband Al, their son and daughter-in-law, Al’s two brothers and one sister, and four family friends.

“Our team has gone through its share of cancer diagnoses,” she states, describing the motivation that inspires their Relay for Life team. Cheryl’s husband has been cancer free for 11 years, following two lung cancer surgeries. Initially, it was hard for her husband to deal with the diagnosis of cancer – but over time that changed.

“Four years ago, he finally walked the survivor lap with me. For me, that was my most memorable Relay moment,” Cheryl reminisced. At each event survivors do a lap together in designated shirts, to honor what they have accomplished and what they represent. This survivors lap is a strong reminder of why all of the Relay participants are there.

This year there are already 15 teams registered for the July 22, 2017, Mower County Relay for Life. One of Cheryl’s biggest goals is always spreading the word and increasing engagement in their community.

When Cheryl participated in her first ever survivor lap she, “felt very emotional, there were lots of tears and lots of support from the on-lookers.”

“Last year we had 14 teams and we are already up by one!” she exclaimed. They hope to raise $58,500 overall at this year’s event and they have been promoting it online and in-person. On the day of Relay for Life, there is a silent auction, food vendors, independent sales vendors, and team fundraising that all goes towards that total. They also raise money through selling luminaries. Word of mouth continues to be the greatest and most effective way to advertise.

Each year Cheryl’s role as a Relay volunteer has changed, and this year is no exception. For 2017 she’s honored to serve as the team development chair and back-up financial officer. Personally, Cheryl has set a goal of raising $4,000 for her team. 

The Mower County Relay for Life’s 2017 event will begin at 2 pm and end at 2 am. The Luminaria ceremony will take place at 9 pm. Luminarias are lit in dedication to those who have passed away, those that are currently fighting cancer, or anyone who has overcome it. Many have messages and names on them, and they contain lit candles during the event, along the paths that participants walk.

“Everybody has been touched by some sort of cancer – I would like to find a cure for all types of this dreaded disease,” Cheryl says.

There are many reasons for our communities to work together and Relay for Life is a great cause to support. If you can’t make the event but would like to support the Mower County Relay for Life, just visit their site to make a donation.

Thank you to Cheryl, for 25 years of involvement with Relay for Life and for being an inspiration, in the fight against cancer.