Relay For Life 2019 campaign kicks off with theme ‘Made In Michigan’
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
A group of Crawford-Oscoda County Relay For Life organizers and volunteers banded together on Saturday, Feb. 23, to “Channel The Flannel” to kickoff its annual campaign to help battle cancer.
The kickoff was held in the dining area at the Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church.
Ali Halfyard is the new event leader for Relay For Life of Crawford-Oscoda County. She is taking over coordinating and organizing the campaign from Nancy Goodyear, the employee and occupational health manager at Munson Healthcare Grayling Hospital.
“No one else stepped up to do it, and I didn’t want to see Relay just disappear out of Crawford County,” Halfyard said.
Halfyard comes into the role with a mix of emotions, being excited and nervous to take on the task. Her goal is to bring more community support, participation, and volunteers to support Relay For Life.
“We’re just trying to get more involvement,” she said.
Relay For Life of Crawford-Oscoda County will be held on Saturday, June 22, in the Grayling City Park. The event will be held from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. with registration taking place at noon.
The theme this is “Made In Michigan.”
“Michigan Proud – that’s what we want to bring together is Michigan helping Michigan,” Halfyard said.
The theme for the Relay For Life kickoff was “Channel the Flannel” to recognize Arauco, AJD Forest Products, Weyerhaeuser, and Georgia-Pacific for the contributions wood manufacturers make in the community as well as their employees.
“We just want to bring a lot of awareness to the companies that manufacture wood and it’s a woodsy area,” Halfyard said.
The kickoff featured a coney dog bar as part of the tribute to Michigan. The American Coney Island was founded in 1917 by Constantine “Gust” Keros, who immigrated to Detroit from Greece in 1903.
The meal was rounded out with Better Made Chips, which was founded in Detroit in 1930, and Faygo, which was launched in the Motor City in 1907.
Abby Kovas, of Mio, is a member of the Families Against Cancer team. She volunteers for Relay for Life to support her grandmother, Donna Kovas, who has been cancer free for four years after dealing with lung cancer.
“It’s been a bumpy ride, and there has been a lot of harsh things going on, but she’s fought through it,” Abby said.
Abby said she remains involved with Relay for Life to raise awareness regarding cancer and to learn more to help others.
“It means a lot to me because I can help my grandma out more and I can be her caregiver for many more years,” she said.
Ed Brosky, of Grayling, served with the U.S. Army in the infantry during the Vietnam War in 1969-1970. He led a squad that searched out enemy forces.
“They would drop us in an area and would have to go and try to find them,” Brosky said.
Years after the war, Brosky was diagnosed with prostate cancer due to exposure to Agent Orange, an herbicide and defoliant chemical used in the jungles of Vietnam to eliminate cover for the enemy.
“I kept an eye on it, but it was really non-aggressive,” Brosky said.
In the winter of 2017, Brosky underwent surgery to deal with the cancer.
“Finally, it came to a point where I had to have it taken out,” Brosky said.
He is still on a three-year regiment to monitor any signs of cancer and to maintain his wellbeing.
“I go to my doctor every six months to get checked out, and so far so good,” Brosky said. “It is what it is. You have to deal with it. I feel lucky that they got it all, at least for right now.”
Brosky’s wife, Marianne, was diagnosed with colon cancer in June of 2018.
“I went through the winter with all my treatments,” she said.
Marianne’s family has a history with cancer.
“I come from a family of 10, and we’ve already lost three to cancer,” she said.
Marianne’s sister, Mary Murray, who lives in Texas, is also a cancer survivor.
“She had surgery, and hers was found early and they were able to get it really quick,” Marianne said.
Wayne Nelson, of Grayling, is a member of the Families Against Cancer Relay For Life team. He has had three bouts with kidney cancer, and is slated to have another surgery on March 13.
Nelson has been involved with Relay for Life since 2001, to honor his sister, Edna Dostal, who succumbed to cancer at an early age.
“What got me interested in Relay For Life, I lost a sister. She was 28-years-old in 1962. I helped my brother in-law drive to Rochester, Minnesota to the Mayo Clinic to help out,” Nelson said. “I remember very frankly the doctor said we won’t see you anymore. That is all we can do for you. A week later, she passed, and that is why I have been a cancer supporter.”
Bonnie Townsend and Janis Smith, of Grayling, were both on hand at the kickoff to support those battling cancer and to honor family members who have dealt with the disease.
“I had a cousin that didn’t make it,” Townsend said. “It means a lot to me, because I’m here for her, too, Townsend said.
Sandra Westover, a breast cancer survivor from Frederic, was at the kickoff to sign people up for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network. The organization raises money to fund cancer prevention, cancer research, and provide quality of life program for cancer patients.
Westover specifically highlighted legislation being spearheaded by Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, that would allow Michigan residents to use oral therapy – taking a pill – to receive their chemotherapy. She said the new treatment would bring more comfort to patients.
Rendon, who is a cancer survivor, is pursuing the legislation because Michigan is one of seven states in the nation that does not allow cancer patients to be treated through oral therapy.
Westover noted the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network main priority is to keep legislation regarding cancer at the forefront in the minds of state and federal lawmakers.
“We’ve come too far with this research to let that slide,” she said.
Jessica Christensen, from Higgins Lake, is the event coordinator for Bark For A Cure, a Relay For Life event held in the Grayling City Park in October for cancer survivors and their dogs.
Christensen got involved with Relay For Life through her mother, Linda, who lives Sheridan, Michigan, and is 30-year cancer survivor
“I did a lot of Relay For Life back at home with her, and so now that I’m up north, I wanted to continue with my contributions up here,” she said.
Christensen recently signed up to be a volunteer driver for the Road to Recovery, which gives cancer patients rides to doctor’s appointments and chemotherapy treatments.
“If it wasn’t for people being able to drive, they wouldn’t have a way to get to their doctor’s appointments or to their chemotherapy,” Christensen said. “ It’s kind of heartwarming knowing you’re having that kind of participation in their journey with cancer treatment. It’s means a lot to me to able to do that because there is such an important need for it.”
Halfyard said the goal for Relay for Life this year is $25,000 as organizers strive to build up community support and recruit more volunteers. She added that Relay For Life has relaxed some of its restrictions on fundraisers.
“This year, they made it so you can pretty much do anything,” Halfyard said. “If it brings you joy, we want to see that turn that into a fundraiser to help people.”
Halfyard pointed out that if a volunteer raised $100, that will go to Road to Recovery Ride. It can also pay for stays in the Hope Lodge in Grand Rapids, where cancer patients can receive overnight accommodations while being treated by specialists in West Michigan.
Marianne Brosky urged cancer supporters to learn more about the Hope Lodge.
“I can say that anybody, if they’re in the Grand Rapids area, to go and see the Hope Lodge, because it is amazing,” she said.