The Eagles Cancer Telethon returns with an in-person fundraiser for its 68th year

The annual event, which brought in a preliminary $960,000 as of Sunday, has brought in millions of dollars for cancer research over its nearly seven decades of history.

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Teresa Chapman, executive director of the Eagles Cancer Telethon, speaks Saturday night during the event held at the Mayo Civic Center.
Jordan Shearer |

ROCHESTER — Mary Hovda has been attending the Eagles Cancer Telethon for decades. She remembers going to the telethon after Mass when she was younger. She'd dump a handful of change in a glass jar and then would get a bag of potato chips and an apple.

"It was probably right after they started it," Hovda said, trying to remember how far back that memory goes.

On Saturday night, she was at the event once again, accompanied by a granddaughter and two great-granddaughters. While they were there to create new memories, they also were there to remember those they'd lost.

This year marked the 68th year of the telethon, which brought in about $960,000 by the time it went off the air Sunday.

"It's the longest, locally run telethon in the nation," said Teresa Chapman, executive director of the Eagles Cancer Telethon. Money raised goes to fund cancer research at Mayo Clinic, Hormel Institute and the University of Minnesota.


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From left, Ciara Church, Justine Dickie, and Ava Robertson perform Saturday night during the Eagles Cancer Telethon at the Mayo Civic Center.
Jordan Shearer |

Last year, it adapted into a modified, seven-hour event without an audience due to the pandemic. It still managed to bring in about $400,000. The year before that, they brought in just shy of $1 million.

This year's 20-hour event started at 8 p.m. Saturday and was scheduled to run until 4 p.m. Sunday.

There were well over 100 acts scheduled to perform during the telethon. One entertainer came on stage to perform magic tricks. There were dance groups, and bagpipes and vocalists and at least one ukulele performance.

The donations came in all sizes. One individual gave $100. Two 12-year-old students gave $1,570 that they made by selling T-shirts on Facebook.

One team, the Blooming Prairie Cancer Group, came armed with a check for $200,000. It was the largest amount the group had ever brought together in its 20-year history. They raised it through a live auction and several different kinds of bingo.

"It was a banner year," said group member Jennifer Milton.

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The Rochester Caledonian Pipe Band performs Saturday at the Eagles Cancer Telethon at the Mayo Civic Center.
Jordan Shearer |

And with every check handed over, there was a story to go along with it. Parents, siblings, grandparents — loved ones of every possible form who had died to cancer.

Hovda's granddaughter, Cady Born remembers going to the telethon when she was younger too. And now, her own two daughters were getting to experience it as well.


One of the two, 6-year-old Addy Born, held up a sign with a hand-written message on it.

"Prayers for Aunt Karen fighting now," the sign read. "Remembering those that have passed: dad, mom, sister, grandma, brother, aunt, uncle."

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or
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