For 12 years, the Mini-Relay event at Elk Lake Elementary for the American Cancer Society has drawn out patients, survivors, family members, school children, and the community for a fun day of activity to raise awareness and funds for those fighting cancer. This year, more than $20,000 was raised for cancer research, transportation to treatments, and other help for those fighting disease. The goal for this year was $16,000.
Brooke Arnold, an Elk Lake High School student and cancer survivor, joined event founder and fellow cancer survivor Louise Hicks to lead the dances and strolls around the elementary gymnasium. Arnold and Hicks led the Chicken Dance from the center of a circle of kids and adults.
Survivors attending the event did a lap together around the gym, and received congratulations and hugs from supporters. Some cancer patients and survivors had teams, including elementary secretary Patsy Gesford, whose extended family and co-workers showed up in support.
Gesford recently completed chemotherapy for breast cancer, and is now in the reconstruction phase following mastectomy. She seldom missed a day of work during the ordeal, except for a few days for surgery. “You’ve got to keep going, every day, to get through it,” she said. “This place, this school, is so amazing, the support. Between
this and my church (Dimock Community): things like this get you through.”
Gesford’s daughter, Tiffany Neenan, a kindergarten teacher at Elk Lake, was there to support her, as were several of her children.
Also in attendance was Becky Burke of Auburn Center, who is midway through chemotherapy treatments.
Burke held her one-week-old baby, Keirah, as she rested in a chair on the sidelines. Her daughters, Norah and Molly, played with balloons and other children on the gym floor nearby. She also has a son, Liam, who did not attend.
Burke will be resuming chemo treatments shortly, then will have surgery afterward. She began treatment in August, then took a break in late pregnancy.
This year’s gimmick, for fifth and sixth graders who were raising funds for the event, was an opportunity to throw pies in the faces of several teachers if the goal was reached. Lunch was served for the participating students after the relay event.
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