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A different kind of Relay

Drive-through meal pickup gave people new way to support Relay For Life

Photos by Deb Gau Luminarias in memory of area residents marked the path that Doris Meier, Brianna Edmundson, Anders Kack and Stacy Meier were walking at the Lyon County Fairgrounds. The walk was an option for visitors at Relay For Life’s fundraiser event Thursday night.

MARSHALL — Organizers of the Lyon County Relay For Life event were faced with a unique set of circumstances this year. The COVID-19 pandemic meant it wasn’t possible to hold a large gathering.

But that wasn’t going to stop them from showing support for people affected by cancer.

“It has been challenging for all of us. And now more than ever our cancer patients and caregivers need us,” said Rochelle Luebke, co-chairperson of the Lyon County Relay For Life committee. “Cancer hasn’t stopped, and neither have we.”

On Thursday evening, Relay supporters took their event on the road. Instead of holding an all-night event like in years past, they served drive-through meals at the Lyon County fairgrounds. Visitors could also choose to walk a short luminary path remembering area residents.

Supporting Relay For Life is something that has personal meaning for many people, speakers said Thursday. Sandy Fultz, this year’s Ambassador of Hope, said she was glad to be supporting an organization like the American Cancer Society. Funds raised by Relay For Life go to help support cancer patients and their families, and the ACS is an important source of information, she said.

Fultz also shared some of what she had learned while going through treatment for ovarian cancer.

“Strong is different for everyone,” Fultz said. “As cancer is unique, so is each person’s strong.”

It’s possible to find strength in many different ways, she said — from faith, to practicing determination, to supporting other people on their journey, and accepting support from loved ones.

“I am so fortunate to have amazing support from my friends, family members coworkers and community,” Fultz said.

It took some flexibility and creativity to make Thursday’s event happen, organizers said. Originally, Relay For Life of Lyon County planned on holding an event in connection with Sounds of Summer in Marshall, said Dawn Kopperud. Then came COVID-19, and large gatherings like Sounds of Summer were canceled. Relay organizers came up with alternative events like their “Paint the County Purple” campaign, and offering to paint purple ribbons on people’s driveways.

“We did a lot of those,” Kopperud said. “The support was still there from the community.”

“But we still felt the need for something,” to support survivors and keep up the fight against cancer, Kopperud said.

Social distancing would be important for an in-person event, especially because cancer survivors may have weakened immune systems, organizers said. That was where the idea of a drive-through event came from.

In some ways, bringing the luminary walk back to the fairgrounds was nostalgic, calling to mind past Relay events in Lyon County, said Chanda Bossuyt.

Cancer survivor Mary Jo Bossuyt, who was helping serve to-go meals, said it was good to be able to have an in-person Relay event.

“I miss the old overnight one,” she said, but she was also glad people were lining up for the new event. “I think the drive-through works.”

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