In the early 90s, a group of Redwood area residents began talking about conducting an event in the community that would raise funds for the American Cancer Society.
While it was not the first fundraising effort in the area, that event known as Relay For Life would become the most significant for the region, as more than $1 million has been raised in the battle against cancer.
The first Relay For Life event was held in Redwood Falls in 1993, and those who were there in the humble beginnings recall not only when it started but how the program has grown over the past 20 years.
Jolene Amberg, who served as the Redwood County Relay For Life chair from 1994-1999 recalled that first event.
The first relay event was held at Memorial Park on the track. Amberg recalled there being five teams there that year.
Over the years that list has grown to more than 20 teams, and has moved to its present location at the Gilfillan estate.
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Relay For Life in Redwood County, a celebration has been scheduled for Feb. 23 from 1-3 p.m. at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Redwood Falls.
Ann Rose, the current chair of Relay For Life in Redwood County said the open house is a way for the organization to express its appreciation to the community, individuals and businesses who have supported the program over the years.
Those who have been part of the Relay For Life since the beginning have many fond memories.
Rosemary Junker, who was friends with those helping to coordinate the event, got involved in various ways over the years from serving as a team captain, as well as the honorary co-chair and chair of the event.
Junker, who is a 30-year cancer survivor said getting involved with Relay For Life was a logical way for her to help with the fight, adding she wanted to ensure others would not have to go through the same kinds of things she experienced as she battled cancer.
Junker called the Relay For Life night a magical time, adding she absolutely loves the survivor lap as those who have battled and are winning are honored. She encouraged anyone who has never been to Relay For Life to come out this year – July 19.
Bob Manning got involved when his wife, Jan, became treasurer, and after she passed away he took over the role. Manning recalled the days of having the event at the fairgrounds and said he really likes the Gilfillan setting.
As the treasurer, Manning said he enjoys being the one who is able to post the numbers, recalling with a smile the first year the funds hit the $100,000 mark. That mark has been hit for more than a decade now.
Page 2 of 2 - “I remember telling Deb (Kaardal, who also served as chair), ‘six figures,” Manning said with a laugh.
Everyone is invited to the open house Feb. 23.