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Daily News photo/JOHN EBY Danielle Taylor, who walks in memory of her mom, Donna, lights a luminary bag Saturday night.

Archived Story

Dowagiac relay supports survivors

Published 7:28pm Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cass County Relay for Life at Dowagiac Union High Schoool’s APEX (Athletic and Physical Education Complex) track surpassed $40,000 of its $75,000 goal before darkness fell Saturday of the 24-hour event.

Katie Pedersen, community representative for the Great Lakes Division of the American Cancer Society in Portage, said the 15-year-old event made $72,059 in 2011. ACS research has contributed to a 14 percent decrease in the cancer death rate since the early 1990s.

The largest team, the Rack Pack, with almost 40 members, was brand-new, young and headed for the $5,000 gold level of fundraising thanks to the leadership of Kelsey Cleveland, captain, and Danielle Taylor, co-captain.

Motivating both are their mothers’ bouts with breast cancer.

Rack Pack, selling $3 strings of lap beads during the event, also sold Yankee candles for Mother’s Day and organized a garage sale and a $5 spaghetti dinner with salad and breadsticks at Apostolic Lighthouse Church.

The team consists of recent DUHS graduates, high school students and adults.

Kelsey just graduated and will attend Southwestern Michigan College to study nuclear medicine. Danielle, who graduated in 2010, is studying early childhood education through SMC and Western Michigan University.

In the fall, she starts an internship with Pokagon Band Head Start.

“I want to teach preschool — the little guys,” said Danielle, who previously walked with Encore. Kelsey had been a member of Walking Guardian Angels.

“They’ve done exceptionally well,” Chairwoman Diana Bower said. “They’re a first-year team and already turned in over $4,000. We need more young kids to get involved and do community service. My mom died of ovarian cancer in 1993. That’s my motivation. Cass County has over 200 people diagnosed every year with cancer. My granddaughter will be 3 in November, and I don’t want her to know what it is.”

Bev Dodd of Sister Lakes Elementary School conducted a “penny war” between the classes, baked potatoes for the staff and sold caramel apples and baked goods. Previous years she sponsored a water balloon battle to benefit Relay.

“Kids came up to me afterward and said it was the best time they ever had, even though we ran out of balloons,” said Dodd, who runs the concession stand.

She also did a pizza party for the class that collected the most coins.

“I wanted to get kids involved. This is my 14th year. My dad died of prostrate cancer. At night, when I walk by myself, I think of all the suffering he went through. I started walking when it was at the college, then we went to the fairgrounds. I think this is my fourth year here doing concessions.”

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