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Painting the town purple: Perham, EOT gear up for Relay for Life

Leading off the Relay for Life event each year is the Survivor's Lap - a trip around the Perham High School track that leads off all other laps. Submitted photo1 / 6
The downtown section of Perham has been draped in purple this week in recognition of the upcoming Relay for Life event on Friday. Brian Hansel/FOCUS2 / 6
Each team in the Relay for Life has a tent of their own to raise money for the fight against cancer. Submitted photo3 / 6
Ottertail Glass showed off its support for the Relay for Life on the Main Street of Perham. Brian Hansel/FOCUS4 / 6
The Relay for Life brings out people of all ages. The East Otter Tail County event raised $141,500 last year giving the group the No. 2 ranking in the nation per capita. One of the highlights of the evening is the release of the doves. Submitted photo5 / 6
County Highway 8 on the south side of Perham has a long row of Relay for Life sponsor signs on both sides of the pavement. Brian Hansel/FOCUS6 / 6

For Ron Anderson, the Relay for Life is about learning and enjoying - not simply raising money.

"It's not so much a fundraiser but it's an event where people can come and learn and enjoy and get a feeling for what it's all about," said the man who started the relay with the help of his wife 23 years ago.

Anderson is proud of the fact that from the beginning, the Relay for Life has been popular with people in Perham and the surrounding area.

"It just seemed to hit a responsive note," Anderson said.

Anderson and the rest of the Relay for Lifers will strike another blow in the fight against cancer Friday when the Relay for Life of East Otter Tail County is held at the Perham High School track beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Having set a goal of 27 teams (24 returning and three new) the annual event is seeking to go from the No. 2 in the nation per capita to No. 1 in 2018.

The Relay for Life event in Perham raised $141,500 last year for the American Cancer Society.,

Teams range in size with many fielding 10 or more members. The relay is not an athletic competition but it is a competition nonetheless.

Perham and other east Otter Tail County communities are paired with Fergus Falls in the fundraising effort. The East Otter Tail Relay for Life group has been very successful.

"With one-quarter of the people we do two-thirds of the fundraising," Anderson said. "Last year we collected almost seven dollars a person from every man, woman and child in East Otter Tail County."

The efforts of the local Relay for Life teams have not gone unnoticed. The group has received a community involvement award for their district, which includes 13 states.

"We do have teams that are very committed to meeting their goals and exceeding their goals," said Lisa Peterson, one of the event's organizers. "What is important is that the teams are competing about the money they make."

Anderson credits the people who work so hard to secure pledges. It is not a question of one age group or another but a combination.

"We have some good veteran leadership and some good young leadership," Anderson said.

For the first time, the Relay for Life theme will be: "Fight Back, We CAN, Remembering Robianne."

Robianne Schultz, the Perham event's Advocacy Chair, fought a battle against cancer "without a break," for 14 years before her death last fall, according to Peterson. Schultz never talked about her own problems with cancer. She was not looking for sympathy, she was looking for a cure.

Anderson had his own thoughts about the kind of person Schultz was and the courage it takes to fight a battle with the odds might be against you.

"I think sometimes people sell themselves short," Anderson said. "They don't realize what they've got inside them until it happens, and I've seen it many, many times."

Anderson has often been deeply touched by the Survivor's Lap, where the people who have survived the disease walk around the track.

"Sometimes you see things happening out there that are just very moving in terms of how these people are able to come through. There are people who are dying, and they just won't quit."

The activities for the free event will include a Silent Auction, food and activities at team campsites, concessions, wacky hair and face painting, kids' games, massages, an advocacy tent and homemade ice cream made with the helping of a steam engine.

The event's opening ceremony and Survivor's Lap begins at 7 p.m. Activities will continue from 7:45 until 9:15 p.m. At the close of the night's relays, the lighting of the luminaries will take place at 9:15 p.m.

For more information visit www.relayforlife.org/ottertaileastmn or call 346-4747.

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