It was a bittersweet ceremony as the Northeast Montana Relay for Life began on Friday, July 25. The young, the old, the healthy and the sick gathered with one mission in common, to raise funds to fight cancer and to take a stand against something that impacts almost everyone.
"It's dangerous and it can touch you, I don't care who you are," Ken Kautz said after lighting the torch of hope on Friday.
Kautz explained to the crowd he was a colon cancer survivor, who spent 90 days in a hospital. He struggled through the speech as tears came to his eyes over the experience. He read a poem to his hero, who stood by his side while he was sick. Kautz told the crowd that he didn't think anything was wrong and by the time he got checked out he was in stage three.
Kautz was one of around 80 survivors who came to the event. They gathered to walk around the track at the fairgrounds this year. Mona Amundson, who sits on the Relay for Life committee, told the crowd that next year the track would be paved.
The ceremony had some changes this year, and it still was a success. The total raised for the relay was $45,371.40. That amount is what has been raised over the year with other events and fundraisers. The Festival of Trees, Indian taco feeds, a golf tournament and more are all part of the fundraising efforts that come to a head at the relay event. They still have until August 31 to raise funds for the year.
The funds raised all go to help cancer patients like Kautz. The cost of travel, the cost of lodging and the support needed can add up. The funds go to the American Cancer Society, which helps small rural areas stay in touch with resources. The Road to Recovery program helps fund transportation for those who need to get to Bilings, Great Falls and even Denver for treatments. The Look Good, Feel Good program offers support to those struggling with hair loss and other physical changes from treatments.
Money also goes to research responsible for new and improved treatments, for finding cures and better ways to fight cancer.
The ACS helps fund grants to research teams looking for ways to beat cancer. Amundson said that the research is often overlooked.
"Thank God I'm alive because of it (research)," Amundson said. "Twenty years ago, me and my husband might be dead."
Amundson is a cancer survivor, and her husband recently underwent treatment to fight a cancer diagnosis. She has been heavily touched with cancer in her family and said that there is still a lot of research that needs to be done to help combat the different types of cancers and find better treatments.
The relay's top adult team was the Skeleton Crew (radiology department at FMDH), the top youth team was the Scottie Cross Country team, the top adult was Mona Amundson, and the top youth was Makenzie Wesen (Glasgow High School Student Council president).
"People need to realize that by supporting this, it does come back to our community," Amundson said.