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Relay for Life set for June 19-20

Though Heather Bridgeman has never been diagnosed with cancer, her life has been inexorably affected by the disease.

Bridgeman's mother, Michelle Harris, a Detroit Lakes Middle School EBD teacher, passed away on March 9 of this year -- less than a month after being diagnosed with colon cancer.

Seven years earlier, in 2002, her father Bob Harris died from pancreatic cancer, and Bridgeman lost a grandfather to the disease as well.

"I've been involved with the (American Cancer Society) Relay for Life off and on since 2002," said Bridgeman, noting that she and her husband Brett had lived in Iowa and Colorado before getting married and moving back to DL two years ago.

"I was asked to be the torchbearer for this year's Relay, in memory of my mother," she said, noting that Harris had been a dedicated volunteer for both the Becker County chapters of both the American Cancer Society and the United Way.

The Relay for Life is scheduled to take place this Friday and Saturday, June 19-20, on the Detroit Lakes High School athletic track. The Relay will be preceded by a short tribute to Michelle Harris.

Bridgeman will start off the Relay at 7 p.m. on Friday -- but she won't be participating alone.

She will be joined by several members of the Bridgeman and Harris families, as well as friends who wanted to do something in memory of her mother.

Her Relay for Life team -- appropriately dubbed "Michelle's Angels" -- will include not only herself and husband Brett, but also Anne Anderson, Jeff Johnson, and three other members of the Bridgeman family: Kelsey, Carlene and Marissa.

Though she couldn't be in Detroit Lakes for the event itself, Heather's sister Kristin, who lives in California, did help raise money for the Relay, as did Michelle's longtime friend Sue Borstad.

"We wanted to hit at least $1,000 (in donations), and we've already surpassed that," said Bridgeman.

Besides the Harris-Bridgeman group, there are 23 other teams signed up for this year's relay, according to organizer Michelle Bjorgan.

Many others have also made contributions through purchasing luminaries in honor of their loved ones: the luminaries -- which are candles placed inside paper bags decorated by the donors -- will be used to help light the walkers' way throughout the night.

In addition, others have contributed items to a silent auction that will be held prior to the Relay on Friday, from 5 to 6:45 p.m. at the track. There will also be a cancer survivors' reception from 5 to 7 p.m., followed by the opening program.

The public is invited to participate in any of the preliminary festivities. If you would like to participate in the Relay itself, there is still time to sign up.

Contact Michelle Bjorgan, 218-238-5037, Lori Peterson, 847-5866, or Vicky Williams, 847-5923. Cancer survivors who would like to participate can contact Vicki Singer at 847-5080, and those who would like to purchase luminaries are asked to call Gail Kotschevar, 847-9412 or Terri Hutchinson, 847-0595.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454