Walking for a cause

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Rain did not keep dedicated supporters away this weekend as the annual Relay for Life of Osceola County took place in Evart.

Starting at noon on Friday, participants raised money and awareness for those affected by cancer for a full 24 hours at the Osceola County 4-H FFA Fairgrounds.

Mary Lynn Robertson is the American Cancer Association Representative for the area and is in her third year of participating in the Osceola Relay. Robertson, who is in charge of coordinating all the committees and co-chairs, said this was her first relay event put on in the rain.

“I think those who are dedicated will still show up,” Robertson said. “Just because it’s raining, cancer doesn’t stop. It doesn’t choose the person that it affects, and we can’t affect the weather, so we’re here to fight it whatever Northern Michigan gives us in terms of weather.”

After a soft start and opening ceremony at noon, participants enjoyed several themed laps, kids’ games and races. The survivor lap took place after the official opening ceremony Friday evening, after which survivors and their caregivers were treated to a reception and dinner on site at the fairgrounds.

Other activities to keep the teams going throughout the night included team pictures, live music and a light show performed by the nearby Gold Wing Touring Association.

There were 14 teams signed up to participate in the relay, but Robertson said there are usually last-minute entries.

One team participating in the relay this year was unique. Mike Stahl, a resident of Lowell, traveled to Evart as a one-man team with a lofty goal in mind.

After fundraising singlehandedly for months, Stahl joined his friends at the relay with more than $3,500 to donate to cancer research.

“I sent out 130 letters and I got 90 responses,” Stahl said. “That’s a pretty fantastic response of people jumping on board and helping out.”

Stahl has a long history with cancer, having survived skin, prostate and bladder cancer. Both his prostate and bladder have been removed, and on Tuesday, Stahl will be admitted for surgery on the tumors currently on his liver and pancreas.

“My motto is ‘adapt, improvise, overcome,’” Stahl said.

Stahl committed to walking the track at the fairgrounds for the full 24 hour relay.

Event co-chair Sheila Houseman said she hoped the rain would not deter survivors like Stahl from coming out to celebrate their victories and remember those in the community who have lost their battles.

“I’m sure he has a life just like the rest of us, but he has made the effort to go out and make those requests and he’s done extremely well, so we’re very glad for him to join us,” she said. “This county has a very high rate of cancer, so it’s great that locals are able to come out here and celebrate their survivorship.”

More than anything, Robertson emphasized the ability of Relay for Life to serve as an educational tool to those currently battling cancer. She said having the celebration can make it easier for people to ask for the help they need.

“It’s just to make sure that the community understands that there is help out there and to make sure that people ask,” Robertson said. “The American Cancer Society is there for them, they just have to either call or ask their doctor. Early detection saves lives.”