Pierce County residents are beaming with purple pride as they prepare for Rugby's 12th annual Relay for Life.
"Rugby is an awesome community and I'm privileged to say that I've lived here my entire life," Senior community manager for the American Cancer Society Laurie Odden said. "All the years that Relay for Life has been in Rugby have been great. When it comes to causes, supporting people, helping cancer survivors and anyone in need, the community of Rugby and Pierce County does a great job of extending support."
From the cities to the townships, purple ribbons are on display while "Paint the World Purple" signs are decorating store fronts and residential lawns.
American Cancer Society Senior Community Manager Laurie Odden (front row, second from left) is proud of the recent fundraiser that took place at the Flower Box in Minot. (Allan Blanks/MDN)
Considered the geographical center of North America, it's only fitting that Rugby and its surrounding communities mobilize with the American Cancer Society to raise money for cancer research.
"Our goal is to raise $50,000," Odden said. "As of right now I believe we're close to $40,000 and we're always looking for sponsors. Also, we're looking for participants to come out the night of the relay and we're encouraging the purchase of luminaria bags. The luminaria bags are an important part of the Relay for Life and we use them during the luminaria ceremony to remember those we have lost and to celebrate and honor those who are called cancer survivors. So, there are still lots of ways you can help out and make a donation."
Currently, there are 17 teams participating and volunteerism is on the rise.
"Pierce County and the Pierce County Relay for Life has certainly shown what it means to come together as a community," Odden said. "They have made a great effort to celebrate, remember and to fight back against this terrible word of cancer we always dread to hear."
For the numerous volunteers and dedicated participants, Relay for Life provides a place of refuge, reflection, and hope.
"I've been involved for Relay for Life for over 20 years," Odden said. "I lost my dad to non Hodgkin's lymphoma and at that time there was a Relay for Life event in Devils Lake, North Dakota. I have a friend in Rugby who said there's this event going on, I know you just lost your dad and you should come with me. So, for a few years I drove to Devils Lake and we went to the event down there and we drove home."
After experiencing the uplifting energy and unity provided at Devils Lake Relay for Life, Odden and a good friend decided to start Relay for Life in Rugby.
"So there was a gal by the name of Marlene Hoffman, she was the one who convinced me to go to the Relay for Life in Devils Lake," Odden said. "So, she said why don't we start an event in Rugby. So, we did! With her help it was the two of us starting the charge and our first Relay for Life was in Rugby in 2004. We chaired that event for a couple years and after that a job came open at the American Cancer Society and the rest is history."
With several committees dedicated to the cause, Odden is thrilled by the generous support and heartfelt contributions of this year's volunteers.
"Those that come out the night of Relay for Life and sit at a registration table to those who stay late and count the money are making a great difference," Odden said. "Our planners, the survivors, caregivers, team captains, everyone doing the logistics to ensure the speakers work and the entire community of Rugby have done a great job."
Odden's commitment to Relay for Life for life is centralized in Rugby and expands across North Dakota.
Samantha Davis, the owner and manager at Flower Box located in Minot, believes Odden to be energetic and dedicated to the event.
"Laurie is a lot of fun to work with and has a big heart for the Relay for Life program," Davis said. "Laurie gives this event 110 percent and is always available to the volunteers."
It's not too late to volunteer, participate and do what you can to assist Relay for Life.
"We're always looking for people to be involved," Odden said. "We're encouraging people to come out at night to Relay for Life, you do not have to be part of a team or on a team to Relay for Life. We just want everyone to come out and experience Relay for Life and see what it's all about."
For Lauri Hopwood, a proud cancer survivor and Relay for Life team captain in Minot, participating in Relay for Life holds profound meaning.
"Throughout my whole life I guess I've either known people who've had cancer and lived through it, or have had cancer and did not live through it," Hopwood said. "In 2013 I had cancer, I am a cancer survivor and I have a lot of passion for Relay for Life."
Hopwood, a resident of Minot met Odden and realized that not only do they share the same first name, they also have a great passion for Relay for Life.
"Laurie is very nice, well organized and passionate about the event," Hopwood said.
Sharing support and helping the best you can is encouraged throughout Relay for Life.
Today, many of Hopwood's Relay for Life teammates comprise of friends, family, and co-workers.
"I had a really good support system," Hopwood said. "My husband was excellent during the time I was sick and my family lives here and were very supportive throughout my experience. The place where I work at (Dacotah Bank in Minot) was extremely supportive and I could come and go as I needed to. If I didn't feel good I could go home and everyone was really great about supporting me. The good thing about my family, friends, and everyone I worked with was we laughed as much as possible. You have to laugh a lot, share jokes and try not to be super serious about it, otherwise it makes it too sad. You have to find a way to make it fun."
Having fun, sharing memories and celebrating the challenge of defeating cancer is what inspires everyone at Relay for Life.
"There's a lot of energy and a lot people there," Hopwood said. "During the event I take time to reflect on the luminaries. I just didn't know that cancer affected so many people in the community and it's great to see everyone come together."
"If people want more information and still want to get involved in the Pierce County Relay for Life they can contact Larae Senechal at 340-7117," Odden said. "People can also contact Darci Gross at 330-3217. We begin the event on Friday, June 3rd with a free will donation supper, which is open to the community and we're calling it the community supper and it's being served by the Rugby Jaycees. Again, we encourage everyone to come out to the supper and all the proceeds they make that evening will come back to the Pierce County Relay for Life."
Pierce County's Relay for Life event will take place at Rugby High School, on June 3 at 7 p.m. and for those interested in participating in Minot's Relay for Life event, it will begin June 20 at Minot State University at 7 p.m.
Blanks is a staff reporter for the Minot Daily News