Relay gives power

Published 11:58 am Wednesday, May 17, 2006

By By ANDY HAMILTON / Niles Daily Star
NILES - The news made her feel helpless.
Michelle Asmus was used to having control over things, until her mother Dora Fletcher was diagnosed with breast cancer just weeks before her 25th wedding anniversary.
Her grandfather Gem Roe had previously died of the disease as well.
Asmus said the best way she found to make an impact on the fight against cancer was working through Relay For Life. So, she took on the job of chairing the annual event in Niles.
Her first, she admitted, was her job as assistant principal at Howard-Ellis Elementary Schools.
Asmus said her ties with Relay For Life began in Toledo. After moving to Niles she helped form a team from Howard-Ellis and then started leading the event.
Each year, Relay For Life draws hundreds of people at all hours of the day and night to the track at Niles High School. Teams of around 10 participants walk or run laps with the goal of fighting cancer. The idea, Asmus said, reflects the fact that cancer never sleeps and neither can the fight against it.
Last year's Niles-Buchanan Relay For LIfe raised $130,000, Asmus said. The grand total for Berrien County was $556,000, which placed the area at number four in the nation in their population bracket.
Asmus and other volunteers have started preparing for this year's Relay For Life scheduled for the weekend of July 22 and 23 at Niles High School. Students from Howard-Ellis and Buchanan schools have already raised $9,000 in pledges for the 2006 challenge, Asmus said. The money generated from Relay For Life is given to the American Cancer Society, who uses the funds for cancer research, education, service and advocacy.
Some of the moments highlighting the event include the opening and closing ceremonies, the survivors' walk, a special 6 p.m. dinner and the candle light vigil, or luminaria.
Opening ceremonies begin at noon on Saturday and the luminaria lights the way for walkers during the night. The vigil starts at 10 p.m. when white paper bags inscribed with tributes and supportive messages and glowing with candles are lined up along the track.
Prior to this year's event, Asmus said a group representing Niles and Buchanan will travel to Washington D.C. with a Relay For Life banner sponsored by Tyler Automotive and Niles Precision. Thousands of other groups of Relay volunteers are expected to be present on Capitol Hill, all together forming a “Wall of Hope,” Asmus said.
Closer to home, Asmus prepares for the event in Niles. She said at least 40 teams have already signed up but the search is on for five more.
To join Asmus and others in the Relay For Life fight against cancer, call (574) 273-1322 or email