Relay For Life

UPDATE: The event has been moved indoors to the Hawarden Community Center due to potential inclement weather, according to the Sioux County Relay For Life Facebook page.

HAWARDEN—Preparations for the annual Relay For Life are picking up across Iowa counties.

Relay For Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society, honors the memory of those who died from cancer as well as cancer survivors.

This year, Hawarden will host the Sioux County Relay For Life for the first time since 2014.

Scheduled for Tuesday, June 11, the event will take place at the Hawarden Community Cente. They expect a turnout of 200-300 people. Last year’s event in Orange City saw rain, and organizers hope for clearer weather this year.

Sioux County has organized two speakers for the event. One will speak on his battle with melanoma. The other will speak about her experience with breast cancer.

Generally, people form teams to attend the event. Teams typically do several fundraisers throughout the year and will set up a station together at the event.

For many involved, the event connects to their personal experience with cancer.

Teresa Vande Pol of Hawarden, the chairman of Sioux County’s Relay this year, has been involved planning the annual event for 10 years.

“I’ve lost both my parents to cancer,” Vande Pol said.

After her mom died, Vande Pol and her dad attended the Relay every year. Most meaningful for them was the luminaria event. The luminaria, which takes place at dusk, involves placing a lit candle in a paper bag. On the bag is written the names of those who have died of cancer or are struggling with it. This tradition gives participants a time of solemn remembrance.

For many, emotional memories are formed at the Relay.

Vande Pol particularly remembers the one in Orange City in 2012. That year her father was diagnosed with leukemia in April and went into remission by June. Vande Pol, her family and father attended the Relay as Team Yates, her father’s surname.

“We pushed him around in his wheelchair,” she said, “He really wanted to be there.”

Her father died that October. Now, she remembers both parents as their names are read during the luminaria portion of the event.

This year’s Sioux County Relay For Life will begin at 5 p.m. with a free barbecue meal for cancer survivors starting at 5:30. Other participants are encouraged to donate to the American Cancer Society. Before the luminaria ceremony, games are scheduled for all ages and a DJ will play fun music like “YMCA.”

“It’s just a fun thing to do,” Vande Pol said, “And it just feels like you’re doing something to try and get money for more research to get rid of cancer.”

Editor’s note: Leif Le Mahieu of Pella will be a sophomore at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, GA. He wrote this story while participating in the World Journalism Institute May 16-June 1 hosted by Dordt University in Sioux Center.

Story has been updated to reflect updated location.