A memorable 25th anniversary celebration at the American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Dawson County raised $43,186 by the end of Friday night at Ehmen Park in Gothenburg.
“We want everyone who is diagnosed with cancer to know they are not alone,” said Mary Harbur of Gothenburg. She was a driving force in planning the “25 Years of Finding Silver Linings” event. For her efforts, she received the 2019 Relay Spirit Award.
Award presenter and leadership committee member Jennifer Walls of Cozad said, “Mary organized meetings, found volunteers, recruited teams, asked countless questions and put plenty of drive time on the family car. She is someone who fights cancer in her own life and still raises an amazing family and is a caregiver for others. She is filled with hope and gives her kindness freely. They say the biggest things come in the smallest packages and all of us can be proud this year of Mary Harbur, our Relay Spirit Award winner.”
Nearly 200 people braved 100 degree temperatures to celebrate with three honorary chairpersons and nearly 30 cancer survivors during the opening lap of the event. Honorary chairpersons to lead the lap were Jeff Harbur (caregiver) and Briony Aden, both of Gothenburg; and Grace Guyle of Cozad. Honorary chairperson Chris Barnes of Cozad was unable to attend due to illness.
Caregivers met their loved ones at the center of the park where they released 150 balloons into the sky. Many participants felt the release to be symbolic of letting go of the pain and hurt cancer causes while others were celebrating their victory over the disease.
State Senator Matt Williams welcomed the crowd before Sarah Sanders of Gothenburg sang the national anthem.
As early evening progressed, several members of the Gothenburg Youth Dancers, including cancer survivor Briony Aden, performed routines to the delight of the crowd. Also heating up the park was Zumba instructor Claudia Mendoza Wehr from the Orthman Community YMCA in Lexington. Several in the audience joined the Zumba dance including deejay Steve Clouatre of North Platte who paced the event with music and fun games.
Even with the heat advisories, Relay offered many ways to beat the heat including ice cream bars from Team Grammy, bottled water from Culligan in coolers throughout the walking path and a long line at the Tropical Sno trailer.
Close to dusk, honorary caregiver Jeff Harbur told his loving and hope-filled story of life with his wife’s cancer. Family, faith and community have brought them through the past five years. Together, they want to send a message of hope.
The luminaria ceremony followed as everyone was asked to light the tealight candles in nearly 500 luminaria bags on the west side of the park. Everyone received a glow stick and broke it to honor relatives, friends, co-workers and acquaintances who have had cancer.
“We join together in saying there is no finish line until a cure is found for all,” said Mary Harbur, Luminaria chair. “Each story of those represented by a luminaria lives on to light up this park. Do you see the hope? Whether the journey each luminaria represents has finished or continues to move forward, we know the reasons to Relay light up tracks all around the world.” Teams and guests then walked a Lap of Silence.
This year’s Relay teams included Flatwater Fight Club, Gothenburg Health, Hope on the Move!, Lexington Regional Health Center, People First of Dawson County 2, Team Grammy and Women’s Cancer Support Group Garden of Hope.
For more information about the American Cancer Society, go to www.cancer.org or call the toll free, 24-hour hotline, at 1-800-227-2345.