MINSTER — Despite a rainy, windy start, the Southwestern Auglaize County Relay for Life ended with sunny skies and perfect conditions for walkers.
A series of storms that swept through the region Friday night forced the suspension of some of the activities scheduled during the relay. Teams returned to Minster Memorial Field at dawn Saturday to complete the event that raised money to help in the fight against cancer.
“The weather kind of came through right before 9 p.m., so everyone went inside,” said Matt Dwenger, a volunteer for the relay. “Once everything came through, we had a space of about 45 minutes to an hour before the next weather was coming through, we actually came out and did the luminaria service outside and then after that the weather started getting bad again. Some people hung around out here, some people went back into the school. At about 10 p.m. or midnight, most people ended up going home because they didn’t foresee the weather would improve.”
The backup plan was to do laps inside the school. However, a slew of outdoor activities had to be canceled because of lightning.
“We told people to come back at daybreak because we knew the weather would have moved out,” Dwenger said.
“I am actually very pleased with the number of people that came back out. Last year, the weather got so bad that we didn’t get many people to come back out. This year, we’ve had probably at any given time, 15 to 20 walkers on the track and 20 to 30 people who are hanging out eating breakfast.”
Being an outdoor event, Mother Nature can impact the relay every year. Dwenger said that aspect is a wild card when organizers plan an event.
“It’s always the weather that plays a part in it,” Dwenger said.
“Last year, we tried a Saturday, Sunday, and the biggest complaint we had was we started a little earlier in the day and a lot of the survivors, many of whom are a little older, couldn’t take the heat in the middle of the day. So the request was this year was to change it again to go Friday night and Saturday.”
The event, which wrapped up at noon, featured a slew of raffles, games and food. A survivor’s dinner and honor lap headlined Friday’s event. Dwenger said the relay experienced a decline in the number of teams. However, he said the teams raised a significant amount to help fight cancer.
“I don’t know if it’s the economy or the cycle of things,” Dwenger said. “For a while, we had quite a few teams when we had it in New Bremen. Then it started going down a bit and when we moved it to Minster three years ago, it ramped back up. And now the last couple of years it slowed. We are pleased with the dollar amount, we are pushing $30,000 with just the nine teams we have signed up. Last year, I believe we made $45,000 and we had twice the number of teams.”
Dwenger said officials could revamp the relay. Auglaize County has two events, one in Minster and one in Wapakoneta.
“The American Cancer Society needs to re-evaluate it, too,” Dwenger said.
“We do have another Auglaize relay that does take place in Wapakoneta. I think probably in the next couple of years they’ll re-evaluate. With the teams declining a little bit, are we going to try and join together and be one again, are we going to stay separate and move from Minster back to New Bremen and try it there. I don’t know what’s going to go on in the next couple of years, but probably some more changes and trying to look at making it better and trying to get more people involved.”
Jackie Bornhorst walked in the event as a member of “Cancer Crushers.” The Minster resident also is a survivor.
“It all started when I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2006,” Bornhorst said. “I started walking just the survivor laps. Once they moved it to Minster, we decided to get a team together.”
Bornhorst also encouraged residents to support the relay, either by signing up as a team or visiting the site to eat food and enter raffles.
“It’s awesome just to see everyone raising money for such a good cause,” she said. “I think it’s really important and it just brings everyone together.”