To the Editor,

American Cancer Society’s (ACS) Relay For Life began in 1985 with one man, Dr. Gordy Klatt, a surgeon who wanted to make a difference for cancer patients.  Since 1946, the American Cancer Society has invested $5 billion into research and there are 18 million cancer survivors alive today.  (

Everyone who participates in the Relay For Life has a story—somehow this disease has touched them or someone they love.  My story with ACS began my sophomore year of high school.  I am from Cavalier, N.D. with a population of about 1,500.  My graduating class was 56, so, we were all friends.  I was a wrestling cheerleader and Steve was a wrestler and didn’t have a sister, so he “adopted” me.  

Our sophomore year started, and Steve wasn’t there—we had heard he wasn’t feeling good and was in Fargo for testing.  Weeks passed and still no word on what was going on with Steve.  Finally in October, we find out that Steve has cancer. OK, he will get treatment and be fine—remember we are 15 or 16 years old and don’t have a clue.  The wrestling season starts and no Steve, so I write the American Cancer Society and ask for information on liver cancer – yep – days before the Internet! The information arrives and after reading it; I realize that Steve isn’t coming back.  The prognosis is that he will have 6 months to live. Our team has decided that we need to go down to Fargo and see him. We choose the first available weekend, but Steve died the day before we could get there.  He was 15 years and three months old and died four months after being diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer. The five-year relative survival rate for liver cancer, when localized, is now 37 percent. (  This number is based on people diagnosed with liver cancer between 2013 and 2019. This indicates improvement in screening, diagnosis, and treatments, but we can’t stop until that percentage is much higher.

I heard there was an event coming to Park Rapids that was a fundraiser for the ACS and due to my experience with Steve, I was in.  My first Relay for Life event was 30 years ago and now I can’t stop being part of this event as it is my opportunity to do something so other friends won’t lose a classmate to cancer.  During that time, there have been more precious lives lost to this disease, so I will continue to do what I can to fight this disease.  According to the ACS, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.  I think about my family – I have five brothers and sisters-in-law along with 9 nieces and 8 nephews – so that statistic speaks to me and motivates me to continue to Relay.

Won’t you join us?  

The Otter Tail Relay For Life is on Friday, July 12 at the Perham High School track with the gates opening at 5:30 p.m.  The theme references Dr. Seuss as our honorary co-chairs are students Taylor Johnson of Perham and Rylie Pederson from New York Mills.  The theme is “We do not like cancer here nor there; We do not like cancer anywhere.”

Each team has activities or food at their campsite such as face painting, bouncy house, inflatable game and obstacle course and of course, the silent auction and you can enjoy pizza on the grill, fry bread, shakes and smoothies.  This is a fun community event for the family!  The opening ceremony is at 7:30 p.m., featuring the Survivors Lap and Dove Release.  All in attendance will line the inside of the track and cheer on the survivors while they take the first lap.

The Perham Health team will have a HOPE sign at their campsite that you can purchase a luminary for $20 in honor or in memory of a loved one and their name will be announced at the luminary lighting ceremony at 9:15 p.m.  

The silent auction closes at 10 pm and you can stay as long as you want and walk the track and look at all the luminary bags which represent cancer survivors and those that lost their battle to cancer. Breakfast will also be served from 10:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. at the concession stand by Brandon’s Cancer Crusaders of Crow Wing County.  Breakfast consists of sausage, eggs, pancakes, coffee and juice and you have a choice between small and large portions!  This team is so passionate about Relay in honor of their son and dad that they come from Merrifield north of Brainerd to participate in the Relay.

Dr. Gordy Klatt proved that one person can make a difference!!  Be that person!

Tina Grewe, 

Perham Health Relay for Life team member