In 1997, Cheryl Gewerth found out her friend, Sherry, had been diagnosed with cancer.

The dreaded “C”word had hit very close to home.

According to Gewerth, that friend went through many ups and downs and ultimately lost her battle in April 1999. To honor her friend, Gewerth made a donation in her memory and joined a Walmart Relay For Life team.

Over the following years, Gewerth got more involved and took part in a number of Relay For Life events.

“I have seen more families of friends touched by this disease. I eventually pulled my family and cousins together to make our own team when the diagnosis came closer to home,” explained Gewerth, adding first it was her youngest brother.

Then it was her father and two years later her mother. Most recently it was her other brother and his wife.

“Many members of my husband’s family have also been touched by that ‘C’ word. Luckily, I still have all of my family,” she added.

As a Relay For Life team member, Gewerth raises funds for the American Cancer Society, and the major way she does that is through the selling of luminaries, which are bags that can be used to honor the ongoing battle or the loving memories of family and friends. Those bags are then displayed during the Relay For Life event.

A new fundraising opportunity came about when a former manager at Walmart donated his collection of yard ornaments for use by local Relay For Life members. That is when the Flock a Friend fundraiser officially began. 

For a donation to Gewerth’s Relay For Life team, people can provide a friend’s address and enjoy the excitement when they wake up to their yard filled with flamingos for 24 hours. The fun continues when the flocked friends return the favor and make a donation to send the flamingo flock to another friend.

“This has become a family affair, in which I have been able to include my grandchildren. I want for them to grow to know the power of community, the gift in giving and to have happy memories when they encourage survivors and remember those who are lost,” explained Gewerth. “The COVID-19 pandemic has presented numerous challenges to all of us in many unexpected ways. Knowing that those in the midst of their battle were part of the most at-risk population we elected to not gather for our annual festivities, sadly also eliminating our fundraising efforts county-wide."

Also worrisome is the number of people who are seeking medical attention for suspicious lumps has declined, reducing the chances of early detection, she added.

Gewerth plans to offer the Flock a Friend campaign for a few weeks in an effort to collect donations for prevention, treatment and research.

Anyone interested in making a donation to send a flock of flamingos to a friend is encouraged to visit the table near the customer service desk at the Redwood Falls Walmart between Sept. 1-15.

“My hope and the purpose of all of my Relays is that my grandchildren can live in a world where the ‘C-word’ leaves a mark in fewer lives,” added Gewerth.