Bethel Lights believe in the cause: a cure for cancerThis year marks lucky 13 for one of the Hudson Relay For Life’s most successful teams. The Bethel Lights is the longest consecutive participating team at the event.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
This year marks lucky 13 for one of the Hudson Relay For Life’s most successful teams.
The Bethel Lights is the longest consecutive participating team at the event. Team captain Sheri Yonash estimates that they have raised in excess of $115,000 over the dozen years they have “relayed.”
She recalled her first relay. “I came to the track and was looking for the team. We didn’t have a campsite or a tent back then. I finally found someone from the church who had a cooler and that was it. We’ve come a long way from that.”
In those first years the team was led by Connie Fisk and Kelly Dorr. Yonash became co-captain with Fisk soon after joining the team and the two led together for a decade. The 2011 relay was the last one for Fisk. Yonash will step down after this year but will remain active in the cause as a member of the American Cancer Society’s Midwest Relay Advisory Team.
Yonash said there is a simple belief that has driven the team from the beginning. “Faith that it (a cure) is going to happen. We don’t know when but we know it will someday.”
Yonash said Bethel members join the team for all kinds of reasons. One year the team had eight members who had cancer. There have also been caregivers, family members and people just committed to the cause.
Over the years, the Bethel Lights have often been signaled out as the top or among the top money-raising teams at the event. Yonash says it is because of fundraising and support from their church family.
Fundraisers include an annual dinner and auction, sales of everything from Relay For Life gear to honey to cards, flowers and plants. They regularly participate in Herberger’s Community Days and this year will get team credit for the luminaries they sell which often exceed 100 or more.
Up until recently, Yonash made sure that every Bethel luminary had a cross sticker that identified it as from a church member. She always included a set for her parents, who both died of cancer 20 years apart. The luminaries are decorated with photos of them including a wedding picture attached to both.
“I think the luminary ceremony is my favorite part of the event. It is always so moving and to see the track lined with the bags is something you never forget.”
Yonash has seen the number of teams participating in the Relay For Life ebb and flow over the years but isn’t concerned that there are fewer teams in recent years. As a member of the ACS Relay Advisory, she travels to other relays in the region and sees the same thing happening elsewhere.
“We’ve had as many as four teams for one person and then it drops down to one the next year. But new people come as their families and friends are touched by cancer. The economy has had an impact. I’m not discouraged. I’d like to see the track full of people but it will be again. We are still here and raising everything we can,” said Yonash.
There is still time to put a team together according to the veteran team captain. “It is very easy to put a team together and there is lots of support. They make it very easy online and you can get help from the experts.”
Yonash said that along with raising money in the fight against cancer, the friendships that she has made over the years of her Relay participation are invaluable to her.
“It’s not just about cancer. The friendship and support of the people I’ve met has been wonderful and something I will cherish always.”
For more information about forming a team, go online at www.relayforlife.org/hudsonwi.