By: Claire Swenson
“For one night our big suburb of White Bear Lake feels like a small town, where everyone knows and reaches out to support each other through our common bond of fighting this disease,” says Donald Pawlik, one of the event chairs for the Relay for Life of White Bear Lake area.
White Bear Lake celebrated 25 years of hosting the Relay for Life—the second largest event in the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network—on July 26.
Hosted at the south campus of White Bear Lake Area High School, the Relay is an all-night walk, in which teams from the community have someone walking the track for a total of 12 hours, beginning at 6 p.m. This year, the festivities were interrupted by thunderstorms, but not before the opening ceremony and Survivor’s Lap.
Typically, the ceremony would be followed by a team lap, where the teams receive recognition, and continuing to walk the track lit by luminaries throughout the night. The night ends with closing ceremonies, called Messages to Heaven, and consist of speakers and a time in which participants release messages for loved ones lost to cancer in biodegradable balloons.
White Bear Lake’s community has been committed to supporting the American Cancer Society. “[A] very strong community of individuals who are dedicated to fight against cancer have allowed for our event to continue to be one of the largest in the entire state of Minnesota,” says Pawlik. “These individuals are people who have been impacted by cancer, either as a survivor or impacted by a loved one and feel we need to rid the world of cancer.”
Pawlik reports that at the event, there are 389 registered participants on 45 teams, 150-200 survivors and 200 unregistered people or people who come not on a team. The funds raised by the Relay support the American Cancer Society’s cancer research at the University of Minnesota, advocacy and patient care.
Outside of the event, Pawlik says that volunteers talk about the services that the American Cancer Society provides and continue raising awareness for individuals in need of support.
“Our community is passionate about letting legislature know where we stand when it comes to cancer support, funding and also smart legislation that will help prevent cancer,” Pawlik says. “We have very strong community of individuals who are dedicated to fight against cancer.”