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Magic was in the air at the 24th Annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Dawson County with teams and sponsors raising a total of $37,153 surpassing the $35,000 goal set at the first of the year. More donations were expected to come in with teams continuing with fundraisers through the Summer.
“We are now just one more day closer to finding that magical cure and we all have one more day to spread hope and love to all those we come into contact with,” said Reuben Hoff, event chairperson of Cozad. “Let’s celebrate the fact the fundraising goal was met and even went above. That truly shows the magic that can happen when we all unite to fight this battle.”
Committee members, teams and volunteers set the stage for “A Cure Is A Magical Thing” beginning early afternoon last Friday at Veteran’s Memorial Park in Cozad. Several enchanting things appeared like Harry Potter and Hogwarts, a survivor witch, a princess castle bounce house and a pair of rabbit ears peeking from the Cure and Relay Magic hat near the Finance Wizard.
 Luminaria lined the sidewalk and teams set up camp sites in preparation. Later that afternoon, the skies darkened and a light rain started to fall. Opening ceremonies were delayed during the brief shower, but went on without a hitch. Many said it takes more than a little rain to stop Relay For Life!
The Cozad Honor Guard opened the event presenting the flags and Gothenburg’s Carter Kincheloe sang the National Anthem. State Senator Matt Williams of Gothenburg gave the opening remarks and a prayer as four honorary chairpersons prepared to lead the survivor and caregiver lap.
Honorary chairpersons were Melissa BeDunnah of Lexington, Reuben Hoff of Cozad, Joyce Olds of Cozad and Susan Williams of Gothenburg. They led a big crowd of survivors and caregivers together to symbolize unity in fighting cancer. Participants then lined up to enjoy a pulled pork meal.
Deejay Steve Clouatre of North Platte said he always enjoys his stint as Relay For Life Prince of Music and Fun. He and emcee Theresa Bubak of Cozad are veteran Relay entertainers and bring their own magic to the microphone. They were joined this year by the young Kincheloe who found out how much fun it is to be holding a microphone on stage. He charmed the crowd with his smile and enthusiasm.
A scavenger hunt and Harry Potter magic wands were big hits with all Hogwarts fans. Door prizes and the silent auction also were favorites with the crowd.
As participants continued to walk around the park, they were encouraged to light the candles in the luminaria bags.  A luminaria ceremony was conducted by Blanca Hernandez, Sylvia Prado and Briana Prado, all of Cozad. The three sisters were among the original Cozad High School FCCLA Pink Ladies Relay For Life team sponsored by FCCLA advisor Bonnie Hansen.  Hansen passed away this year after fighting breast cancer and the young women were asked to do the ceremony as a way to remember her positive influence.
This year’s Relay also included stories of hope and inspiration from survivors and caregivers. “What a magical night it was to hear all of the stories of peoples’ fight against cancer,” Hoff said.
Among the speakers was Gillian Meredith of Cozad who honored her grandfather Jerry Hemphill, a Vietnam veteran exposed to Agent Orange, for his courageous fighting spirit against cancer. Meredith was later named as the winner of the Relay For Life Spirit Award for inspiring planners with her request to do a magic theme this year.
This year’s Relay For Life fundraising included more than $17,500 from corporate sponsors. Many local businesses and individuals helped provide food and supplies for the meal including New Life Interiors, Shane Schutte, Peterson’s Supermarket, Plum Creek Market, Cody and Kristina Messersmith, People First of Dawson County, Family Dollar and Dollar General. The meal was served by volunteers from Cozad Community Hospital.
In addition, goods and services provided by City of Cozad, Johnny On The Spot, Culligan, Dawson Home, Natural Escapes, Brooks Screen Printing and Sign Pro helped make the event a success.
Teams and individuals fundraising for Relay included Angels Among Us, captain Kim Sutton; Anytime Fitness Warriors (no captain named); Lexington Regional Health Center, captain Kristina Messersmith; People First of Dawson County, sponsor Tricia Nix; Reuben Hoff, individual; R.S.C.S. (Relatively Speaking Cancer Sucks), team captains Chris Barnes and Candice Sartin; and W.C.S.G. Garden of Hope, captain Pam Ackerman.
Memorial gifts were received from families of Bonnie Hansen, Ruth Lif, Virgil Coryell and Bill Bailey.
“I want to thank everyone for all the hard work and hours you put in to make this event a success,” Hoff said. “It has been an honor to work with you and I hope we keep on fighting this battle against cancer as long as we can.”
Donations and memorials for Relay For Life are accepted throughout the year. Contact finance chairperson Pam Ackerman of Lexington at 308-324-2230 for assistance. The 2018 Relay will end August 31.
The 25th Annual American Cancer Society Relay For Life of Dawson County will be in Gothenburg. Anyone interested in helping plan the event may contact Sara McCarty at the American Cancer Society office in Kearney at 308-237-1631.
For more information about cancer, contact the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345; or visit the webpage at www.cancer.org For more information about Relay For Life, go to www.relayforlife.org
For more information about Dawson County Relay For Life, go to www.relayforlife.org/dawsoncone or visit Facebook at www.facebook.com/dawsonrelayforlife/