Local team gears up for another EOT Relay for Life

Contributed photo
Laurine Braukmann (far right) prepares luminaries for the Relay for Life event with her sister Daidre Klinnert (far left).

By Tucker Henderson


The Mills Dream Team is gearing up for the Relay for Life event coming up on July 14. Laurine Braukmann, a member of the local team, is also a member of the larger Event Committee for Relay for Life in Otter Tail County.

Cancer can be an anxiety-inducing diagnosis, but Relay for Life is providing opportunities to help with those who are dealing with it’s effects. Education and awareness is also an important part of their efforts.

“We can be role models for people,” said Braukmann. “Sometimes it’s scary to hear that diagnosis and it is lifechanging, but it’s not always the end of your life. There’s hope, there’s things that can be done, there are things that we can do to help. “

Contributed photo
The Mills Dream Team make up NY Mills’ contributions to the Otter Tail County Relay for Life event each year.

“Our committee consists of all volunteers and every one of us are on a team,” Braukmann said. “The teams branch out from there and they do fundraising events during the year.  Lisa Preuss and I are on the main event committee and we help plan the survivor dinner.”

The dinner is held the night before the Relay for Life event and is held in honor of those who have survived a cancer diagnosis and also for their caregivers as well as family guests. Guests pay for their own ticket and the survivors are paid for by a combination of sponsors. The main event is then held the next day and is a large family event focusing on bringing awareness, fundraising, and recognition of survivors and their caretakers.

“We have all kinds of things going on,” said Braukmann. “Everything is volunteer. All the teams have a tent or a booth. Some of them sell food—you can even have dinner there. We have entertainment, we have games for the kids, bouncy houses. There’s a walk for the survivors, a dove realease, the honorary co-chairs give a speech, and then the luminaries. This goes on all night long, it starts at 5:30 p.m. and goes into the morning of the next day. All the guests come and go as they want to, but teams are encouraged to stay all night if they can.”

While Fergus Falls, Wadena and Detroit Lakes’ Relays for Life have run out of steam, East Otter Tail County’s Relay retains strong leadership and large participation. Those interested in joining the efforts can contact Braukmann or Preuss in NY Mills.

“We have 22 teams,” said Braukmann. “Our main chairman of the whole event is Lisa Peterson from Perham and she never quits. She just goes and goes and works her hardest and thinks about Relay year-round and gets everything going for us, all the planning. She is amazing.”

Braukmann said that she has three favorite things that she always looks forward to at the annual event.

“Anyone who wants can purchase a dove that’s released in honor of memory of anyone they know who has had cancer or who is dealing with it currently,” said Braukmann. “It just brings tears to your eyes when they fly up and the song is playing and they go off in one direction, flying together.”

“The other part is the luminaries and just seeing all of them lit. Sometimes we have to do double rows around the whole track because we have so many bags and it’s just heartwarming to walk by there and see your own name or a family member’s name on a bag. It just melts your heart and brings tears to your eyes.”

Another important part of Relay for Life is connecting people with other members of the community and spending time with folks with similar experiences.

“I have made more friends and met many more new people just being in this committee,” said Braukmann. “Without Relay, I would never know these people. We do all of this because it’s changing lives and bringing hope for peope who otherwise don’t have that hope. It’s a pretty powerful event that goes on and many, many hours of planning.”

NY Mills’ own local team, the Mills Dream Team, is headed up by co-chairs Jan Parta and KayAnn Kahilainen. Those interested in joining are invited to contact either Jan or KayAnn.

“They volunteer all their time to get everything organized and call people about fundraising and get workers there,” said Braukmann. “They’re great volunteers. If anyone want’s to join, they’re welcome to join our team. We can all work together!”

“We all work together in NY Mills for the betterment of our area and Relay is a way to do that by supporting the individuals and families who are or have been touched by cancer,” said Parta. “NY Mills has had a team for 27 years. That is commitment to a worthy cause!”

Braukmann herself has a friend that was saved from the ravages of cancer through work done by the Relay for Life campaigns. The testimonies she’s heard over the years encourages her work through the Otter Tail County Relay.

“If it can help just one person,” she said. “Then it’s all worth it.”