No one seems to know for sure when the Redwood County Relay For Life team known as the Erasers got its start.

Some of the long-time team members figure it is somewhere in the 15-20 years ago range.

Yet for those who are involved in the effort those things don’t seem to matter. For them, what is most important is working to find a cure for cancer.

Marlys Mathiowetz, the Erasers team captain, said she recalls a representative from Redwood County Relay For Life coming to speak to the local teachers about the program, and that led to the start of a team that was initiated by a group of those local educators.

Among those teachers is 16-year cancer survivor Sandi Swartz. She and husband, Roger, who is also a cancer survivor, know the efforts of Relay For Life have had an impact on their lives. Being involved is one way Swartz knows she can give back and help others. 

“We will never live long enough to repay what has been done for us,” said Swartz.

Swartz is doing her best to make an impact one person at a time, as she asks anyone and everyone she meets if they are willing to make a donation to Relay For Life in Redwood County. The luminary bags in honor or in memory of someone are the big sell for Swartz. The bags that line the path during Relay For Life are sold $10 at a time, and each team member who takes part in the event needs to raise $100. While Swartz would never be one to brag, one can say raising that amount and much more has never been a problem.

According to Mathiowetz, the Erasers team began as a group of teachers, with a majority of them working at Reede Gray.

Mathiowetz and Jaci Gramstad, who has served as a co-captain of the Erasers in the past, have fond memories of their time attending the annual Relay For Life event. There were days in the past when members of the Erasers would walk the path with a small chalkboard in their hand, and on that board they would list some form of cancer. Then they would erase it as a way to symbolize its efforts in the fight against cancer.

The team enjoys the chance they have to get together with others during Relay For Life, adding they develop a sense of camaraderie as they all work toward a common cause.

As is the case with most people who get involved with Relay For Life, those who are part of the Erasers have their own stories of people they know who have been impacted by cancer.

“Most people start because they know someone who has cancer,” said Mathiowetz.

There are times when those loved ones pass away because of the devastation that cancer can do to the body, but those like the Erasers know the efforts they are making have been making an impact.

More and more people are being listed among the survivors, because of the breakthroughs and advancements in the battle against cancer.

Ever the educator, Swartz offered a statistic that cancer mortality has been reduced by 26 percent since 1991, and while the data can, in and of itself, be impressive what makes it more real for people is that means 2.4 million people had their lives extended because of that.

There are myriad reasons why people continue to be involved in Relay For Life year after year, and for some just being at the event is such a moving experience they have to keep coming.

For Swartz, the event has become a family tradition, as not only do she and Roger attend, but their two daughters and their grandchildren all gather together that night.

Over the years, the Erasers have had their own fundraisers, most of them connected to the school in some way. While most of the long-time members are now retired from their roles as educators in the local district, they continue their involvement in Relay For Life.

Gramstad said there are a lot of things one can support, but for her Relay For Life rises to the top.

“This is important to me,” said Gramstad, adding she enjoys just walking along the path during the event each year she attends.

While Relay For Life 2019 is getting closer – the date is Aug. 2 – there is still time for people who are interested in getting involved to do so.

There are opportunities to volunteer, to donate and to become a member of a team.

To learn more, visit the American Cancer Society Web site at, and look for the link to Relay For Life and then find the site for the Redwood County event.