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Pequot students raise nearly $24,000 for cancer research

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Students at Pequot Lakes raised nearly $24,000 for the American Cancer Society and participated in the Relay for Life on Wednesday, May 21, exceeding their $20,000 fundraising goal.

Fifty-two student teams made up of more than 400 ninth- through 12th-graders took to the track for the school day. Younger students joined them for part of the day as well. Two more teams of teachers raised funds for the event.

The relay kicked off with an opening ceremony, where Michelle and Evan Hayes gave a tribute to their mother, Tammy, who died in April after a brief bout of cancer. Evan is a junior at Pequot Lakes High School.

The fence around the track was lined with decorated bags and signs commemorating loved ones lost and those who currently face the disease.

Student musicians peformed throughout the event, including the pep band, jazz band, two garage bands and a few singers.

At the closing ceremony, students heard from second-grade teacher Julie Benson, who was diagnosed with uterine cancer in December 2013. Benson said the “three Fs” — faith, family and friends — have been her “saving grace.”

“When I walked onto the track on Wednesday morning with my family, I was overwhelmed with emotion when the students were so caring and empathetic, clapping, cheering and giving me hugs,” she said. “It was a special moment for me to share my story, and to tell them, ‘Ten percent of life we have no control over, it’s how we react that makes up the other 90 percent of life.’”

At least one member from each team walked the track at all times throughout the event to represent the idea that “cancer never sleeps,” according to the American Cancer Society’s website.

The Relay for Life was organized by the Interact Club, which is a group of 10th- through 12th-graders who believe in the importance of volunteer work. The advisors for Interact are Nikki Stark and Tracy Lang.

Chelsey Perkins

Chelsey Perkins grew up in Crosslake and is a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School. She earned her Bachelor's degree in professional journalism from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Perkins has interned at the Lake Country Echo and the Rochester and Austin Post-Bulletins and also worked for the student-run Minnesota Daily newspaper as a copy editor and columnist during college. She went on to intern at Utne Reader magazine, where she was later hired as the research editor. Before joining the Brainerd Dispatch, Perkins worked as a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.

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