Greg Melvin takes a quick look over at all the folks wearing “Melvin Strong” green t-shirts. He pauses for a second and then smiles. With both emotion and pride in his voice the Dexter resident begins to talk about his “team.”
“I’ve had liver cancer for four years and I came last year for the Survivor Lap,” he said. “This year I decided I could put a team together and the number of walkers we have been able to recruit and the money we raised has already exceeded my wildest expectations.”
“Melvin Strong” was almost 60 members strong during Saturday’s ninth annual Dexter Relay for Life at Monument Park in the heart of downtown Dexter. Relay for Life, an organized nationwide fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, has raised nearly $5 billion for cancer research since the first steps were taken in 1985.
Melvin was one of many cancer survivors participating on Saturday and was thrilled with the “powerful” response not only from his supporters but also from the Dexter community.
“We had 35 Melvin Strong t-shirts made and we sold out. And another 20 people or so said they were coming to walk and support us as well,” he said. “The event and response is very powerful. I have high school friends who drove two hours to be here and college friends who are driving a couple hours this afternoon to be here and my whole family is here along with Dexter friends and work friends. It shows the power of a community.”
Melvin, 48, has four kids in the Dexter schools including triplets heading into seventh grade. He has lived in Dexter for eight years and says life is a challenge every day dealing with cancer. But Saturday was a “good day.”
“I’m feeling pretty good today,” he said with a smile. Susan Anderson, who along with her husband Bob, formed the Red Brick Regulars also was feeling good on a warm Saturday afternoon.
“Both my husband and I were both diagnosed with cancer this past year,” said Anderson. “We became a little more involved in Relay for Life because of that. But we are both doing well. He has a little more recovery time left but we are doing well.”
The Red Brick Regulars were eight strong with friends of Susan and Bob, who have called Dexter home for 17 years.
“Since we have gone through it ourselves this year, the event has a lot more meaning,” Anderson said. “Everybody here today or everyone in town knows someone who has or had cancer. The more we get involved, the more meaning it seems to have. It’s something to do that makes us feel like we are helping and making a difference.”
The Dexter Relay for Life is certainly making a difference. The event set a goal of $30,000 to help fight cancer and that number was well within in reach by Saturday afternoon.
“It’s been going great,” said Holly Kipfmiller, one of the event organizers. “We had an excellent survivor lap this morning. We had a great opening ceremony and breakfast and everyone is excited and there is such a positive energy around here which is great to see.”
While the day is filled with laughter and smiles and “positive energy,” there also are some tears mixed in throughout the event.
“It’s very emotional for those first-time survivors who take their first lap,” said Kipfmiller. “We had survivors lined up this year by their diagnosis and by their year so they all got to see there are survivors and that there is hope because they can see people who have been survivors for 10 years so that was amazing to see.”
Kipfmiller, who has been involved in the event since 2011, said there were plenty of 10-plus year survivors participating in the walk.
“That was an emotional moment for sure,” she said. “The Luminaria Ceremony and the silent lap by the bagpiper are also very emotional for a lot of people. So right now it’s pretty cheerful with everything going on but it certainly has its emotional moments as well.”
The event featured 10 teams on site Saturday compared to six teams last year.
“Our numbers are really up this year,” Kipfmiller said. “We were already at $28,000 this morning and we still have the rest of the day and night. We also can continue to fund-raise up until July 31 so we still have plenty of time to raise money.”
As of publish Dexter’s Relay for Life has raised over $34,000 this year. There are sometimes significant donations that come into the tally days and even weeks after the date of the event, which was this past Saturday, June 13, so the final number is still not available.
“We had the most amazing day yesterday,” Kipfmiller said via social media later in the weekend. The fundraising goal this year was $30,000.
“Many special thanks to my Event Leadership Team – Lea, Leah, Jenny, Doug, Angie, Jessica and Travis; our Awesome ACS Staff Partner, Heather; my co-team captains – Brittany and Tammi; the boys – John and Ben; all of our friends who came out to walk with us all day; and a special thank you to my wonderful, patient and oh so helpful husband, John,” she added.
In addition to individuals, Dexter’s Relay for Life wouldn’t get off the starting line without the help of community sponsors.
This year’s Silver Sponsors were Edward Jones, Fox 2 WJBK, Nash FM 93.1, Saint Joseph Mercy Health System and the Dexter Lions Club. Kaydon Corp. was a Bronze Sponsor and A&F Wood Inc. was a Signature Sponsor.
In-Kind Sponsors were Alex Young, Zingerman’s, Cornman Farms, Aubree’s, Café Felix, City of Dexter, Dexter Bakery, Dexter Community Orchestra, Dexter Fire Dept., DJ Small Town Sounds, From Grace, Glass House, Healing Arts Center for Massage & Wellness, Knight’s Steakhouse, Null Tap House, John Russell, Red Brick, Stevie D & the Wannabee’s, Terry B’s, The Alley Bar & Grill and Vivid Graphix.
Radiant Brass Ensemble, From Grace, Glass House, Stevie D and the Wannabees and the Dexter Chamber Ensemble all volunteered to play the event.