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Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville, $25K raised

June 18, 2014 - Ortonville- Stefanie Thompson was diagnosed with lymphoma when she was 27, had a stem cell transplant, and now goes to the doctor every six months to make sure the disease isn't returning.

On Saturday, June 14, she walked the track at Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville as a survivor, something she has done every year since 2009.

"I feel so strongly about this," said Thompson as she walked under a banner of purple and white balloons that waved with the breeze in a clear blue sky. "I wish more people would come so we can kick cancer's butt."

Thompson was joined by a few dozen others during the survivor lap, just part of the 24-hour relay event to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

Mary Woods, Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville chairperson, said attendance was down for the seventh annual event, with perhaps 200 to 300 appearing to celebrate, remember and fight back. More than $25,000 was raised, less than half of the initial goal of $59,000.

"Maybe when it was new it was cool and now it's not so cool," speculated Woods. "It could be that it's Father's Day weekend, or people do other relays in surrounding communities. It's a lot of work to get a campsite set up and get people to come walk with you and raise funds. I'd love to figure it out and get the numbers up to what they were before."

In 2010, the Brandon relay raised more than $75,000.

Still, Woods said she is extremely happy with the $25,000 raised, about what she expected with the number of teams and participants.

"With the dedication they put forth, they did a wonderful job to get us to that level," she said. "The relay is really fun and you make good friends."

Joy Tahaney gave the survivor speech at the 2014 Relay and noted that having cancer now is a much different experience than 30 years ago, when she lost her brother to the disease.

"While we acknowledge you're serious, we're no longer giving you power to scare us into submission— cancer, we're coming to get you," said Tahaney. "We owe all those who raise money for cancer our thanks... Sorry, cancer, you've lost. You will never take our souls. You will never be stronger than our researchers and scientists. We're coming to get you and we're already on our way."

Donations to the Relay for Life of Brandon/Ortonville are still being accepted. To make a donation, visit

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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