Manistee County’s Relay For Life provides sense of hope

(Abigale Racine/News Advocate) The theme “We don’t clown around” proved to be fitting for this year’s Relay For Life event, moving the event indoors for the very first time in 19 years, due to weather complications

MANISTEE – The Manistee County Relay For Life concluded on a drizzly, dismal-looking Saturday afternoon, but the poor weather didn’t make the relay experience any less meaningful for the participants.

The twenty-four hour event began at noon on Friday and wrapped up at noon on Saturday, ending with a closing ceremony honoring survivors in attendance and memorializing loved ones.

“This year’s relay was very good,” said Jeanette Somsel, event chair of the Manistee County Relay For Life. “We’ve had a different structure this year, bringing the entire relay indoors, but we made the best out of some tough weather.”

This year, for the very first time in the relay’s 19 years in Manistee County, the event was moved indoors to the Manistee High School cafeteria, and the relocation had made a significant difference on the fundraiser.

While last year’s event raised $79,000 toward cancer research and education, this year’s event generated an estimated $65,000.

“The weather had made a difference,” said Somsel. “When it’s wet, people don’t want to come. Typically it is outdoors only, but it still has turned out great and we have received positive comments.”

Over 200 people attended the weekend event, but most admitted that they did not stay awake or stay all 24 hours.

“I actually had to take a nap,” said Mary Lynn Robertson, Manistee County’s Relay For Life community representative. “I have to drive later!”

The relay still managed to attract a crowd Saturday morning.

“A lot of people returned (Saturday), and quite a few new people came,” said Robertson. “I suppose it was because they didn’t have to work. This year’s relay has been very good.”

Proceeds were generated by personal donations, booths selling handmade crafts and baked goods, as well as auction items. Funds will be donated to the American Cancer Society.

For some walkers, it was their stories of survival that kept them going through the event.

“A lot of caffeine helps, too,” joked Megan Kissel, 34, of Manistee. 

Kissel was diagnosed with kidney cancer two years ago, while she was nine months pregnant with her daughter.

“I thought I was going into labor,” said Kissel, “My family and I were shocked.”

Both mother and daughter survived the scare, and two years later, Kissel is cancer-free and concentrates on being a mother of four.

When asked what Relay For Life means to her, Kissel said, “Hope.”

It is hope that inspires many of the relay participants to return year after year.

“I have been a breast cancer survivor for 23 years,” said Audrey Strouf, 86, a Manistee resident who was selling cancer awareness bracelets and prayer beads during the relay event. “I was here at the very first Relay For Life, and I will do it as long as I can. My motto is ‘Cancer never sleeps, and neither do we.'”

Strouf, a Relay For Life secretary and former Manistee High School English teacher, shared that this year is different because of the loss of a dear friend and co-worker to cancer this past year.

“She was special,” said Strouf. “Her grandson stopped by the relay this year for her.”

(Abigale Racine/News Advocate) Relay For Life participants did not mind walking the relay inside the Manistee High School cafeteria this weekend, walkers concurred that the message was just as important as any other year

 

Leave a Reply