The Relay for Life of Racine’s event leadership team is gearing up for its 25th event, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 1 and conclude on Saturday, June 2 at 8 a.m.
BY KATIE MATTESON
Sharon and Mike Zellmer will participate in the 25th Relay For Life of Racine beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 1 and concluding at 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 2 at Mount Pleasant Campus Park. They’ve had perfect attendance since the event began in 1993 with just six teams and watched it grow through the years to over 1,000 participants.
The couple serves on the event leadership team, a dedicated group of 22 local volunteers led by Amy Helvick and supported by Matthew Elmer, community development manager for the American Cancer Society.
In the beginning, Sharon got involved because of her job as an oncology nurse. In 2012 it got more personal when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Mike, who works as a store manager at Malicki’s Piggly Wiggly, said he’s impressed with the work of the American Cancer Society which uses the money raised each year to support research, education, advocacy and service programs.
“The fact that Racine still supports Relay for Life after all these years speaks volumes for the community,” Mike said.
This will be Joy Lippmann’s 25th Relay For Life too. She had just started chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer during the time of the first event and walked her first survivor lap.
Immediately following the opening ceremonies at each Relay For Life event, the first lap celebrates cancer survivors and their caregivers. Elmer explained that a survivor is defined as anyone who’s heard the words, “you’ve got cancer.”
Lippmann is also a member of the Pink Paddling Power Dragon Boat Team, comprised of breast cancer survivors. For the past several years, members of the team have led the survivor lap so they can form an arch with their paddles that all the others walk under.
“Relay for Life is a wonderful outlet for cancer patients,” Lippman said. “Even though the treatments have changed over the years, the emotions are the same.”
Once the sun goes down, luminaria line the track, each one lit in honor or memory of those who have faced cancer. According to statistics provided by the American Cancer Society, approximately one in three women in the U.S. will develop cancer in her lifetime, while almost one in two men will be diagnosed with the disease.
“Everyone is touched by cancer,” said Kim George, who lost her dad to cancer 20 years ago and has since lost family members and dear friends. She was invited to join the event leadership team this year after serving as a team captain for four years.
Team captains gather a group of 10-15 family members, friends and or coworkers and register the team through RelayForLife.org. Teams plan fundraising activities and team members are encouraged to raise a minimum of $100 each.
When Tim Graetz was asked why he spends so much time each year to raise money with his team from work, help the leadership team with logistics for the event and solicit raffle prizes, he said: “I do it because it’s something that’s needed; I do it for my Dad.” Graetz’ father died from leukemia.
Helvick said her team has spent a bit more time on logistics for this year’s event since it’s a new venue. Through the years, the event has been at Case High School, Racine Zoo and Franksville Park.
“We’re the first big event at the new park and the Village of Mount Pleasant is excited to host us,” Helvick said. “We’re hoping we’ve found a permanent home.”
For more information, contact Matthew Elmer at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (262) 523-5574.