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Relay for Life kick-off

There are survivors everywhere we look. The men, women and children who have battled cancer and won. This is the year to celebrate.

The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of Becker County kick-off party is Tuesday, and the big event itself is scheduled for July 12.

“This is for people to get information about the relay so they can get involved,” said Lori Bachmann, American Cancer Society community relations.

The goal for this year’s Relay for Life is 30 teams and 100 survivors, “since it’s the 100th birthday” of the American Cancer Society, she said.

The relay “is a gift to the community and an opportunity for people with cancer, or who have known someone who has cancer, to get together and just be together,” she said.

“It’s (a time) to celebrate and remember and fight back.”

Relay for Life raises money for the American Cancer Society, which uses the funds for research, advocacy, education and services.

One of those services is the Hope Lodge — a facility for patients and a caregiver to stay for free while having treatment in the Twin Cities and Rochester in Minnesota. There are Hope Lodges throughout the United States.

And one of the people using the Hope Lodge was Ron Zeman. He first used if several years ago when he had cancer, and then last year when his wife, Joan, had cancer.

“Nothing is asked of your income,” he said of staying at Hope Lodge. “They just welcome you in. They are there to help you in any way they can.”

The Hope Lodge provides lodging, kitchen facilities, laundry facilities and pick-up services, all free of charge.

Zeman said those staying there become a close-knit group because they spend so much time together, and everyone is going through the same battle. And even for those that could afford a hotel, he said it’s better to stay at the Hope Lodge and have that bond with others rather than sitting alone in a hotel room.

“It’s absolutely wonderful,” he said.

He added that when cancer patients go back for a check-up, even though they don’t stay at the Hope Lodge, they can get a voucher from there to get a discount at an area hotel.

“I’ve seen firsthand the good it does, just at the Hope Lodge alone,” Zeman said of the American Cancer Society.

In Becker County alone, an average of 180 residents are diagnosed with cancer each year. Each year, 66 of those people will lose the battle.

In 2012, the American Cancer Society served 127 people in Becker County. It provided 188 patient-related requests, and 1,144 patient-related services.

Last year, nine patients from Becker County stayed a total of 516 nights at Hope Lodge.

“Your money is being used and in the right place,” Zeman said.

Bachmann said the research aspect of American Cancer Society is important to her because she has seen firsthand the benefits.

“I have friends who are alive because of the research.”

Because of medications that are being introduced, people are surviving some cancers.

Zeman said people think cancer isn’t going to affect them, or it doesn’t run in their family so they won’t get it. But, he said, cancer didn’t run in either his family or his wife’s family, and they both had cancer.

Bachmann said in all reality, 90 percent of women who have breast cancer didn’t have it in their family.

Anyone interested in raising money for the American Cancer Society is encouraged to attend the kick-off meeting Tuesday, April 16, at 6 p.m. in the M State conference room.

 For more information, or to sign up a team, you can also visit

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.