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It’s a millon dollar relay

By Staff | Aug 2, 2008

Rich Belau, Relay for Life chairman

Some time on Friday night at the Faribault County Relay for Life there will be fireworks shot off in celebration.

The reason? The local group will have raised their one millionth dollar in support of research for cancer cures.

It only took 14 years to get to the million dollar mark, says Relay Chairman Rich Belau.

“We started this county’s Relay for Life program in 1995,” Belau recalls. “We had just over $22,500 in donations and 1,265 luminaries that first year.”

This year their goal is $100,000 and 4,000 of the lighted memorial bags sold.

“We had donations of $84,500 last year,” Belau reports. “Our highest total was three years ago when we reached over $95,000. That is pretty good for a county our size – it averages $5 for each man, woman and child.”

The past few years the total has been in the $80,000 to $90,000 range. They have also averaged 325 to 350 participants. This year there are 340 people on 23 relay teams.

The donations raised go to two places; the American Cancer Society and Hope Lodge.

“Hope Lodge now has two sites in Rochester and can host 60 people,” Belau says. The people are either getting cancer treatment or are family members of cancer patients. They stay free there.

“They will be adding three more Hope Lodges,” Belau says, including one at the Universities of Minnesota and Iowa.

The Faribault County Relay for Life kicks off Friday with registration, entertainment and a silent auction from 5 to 7 p.m.. The opening ceremony is set for 7 p.m. with luminary lighting at 9 p.m.

There are food and games all night long, as walkers from each team circle the luminary route until 5 a.m. Saturday.

The Relay for Life has been at the Faribault County Fairgrounds all 14 years it has been held.

“It is a beautiful setting for us,” Belau says. “With the large trees and the paved road, it is perfect.”

He adds that in all it’s 14 years the event has never been rained out

“I sure hope I didn’t jinx it by saying that,” Belau laughed.

He has been involved in the committee every year of its existence, serving several times as the chairman.

“We run it by committee mainly,” he says. “So everyone helps out a lot.”

“Cindy Nelson has been the driving force since its inception,” he added. “She came to me 15 years ago and asked if I would help her get it off the ground.”

Belau says he is proud of hitting the million dollar mark, something he and the other committee members never thought would happen this soon when they started the event in 1995.

“For a county our size, it is nothing to sneeze at,” Belau says with a smile.