Zumbro Valley Stroll fights cancer

By Dawn Schuett

ZUMBROTA — During a Friday night five months from now, hundreds of Goodhue County residents will walk the path at Covered Bridge Park in Zumbrota from sunset to sunrise.

Their efforts at the Zumbro Valley Stroll, a Relay for Life event to benefit the American Cancer Society, will raise money to fight cancer. On their minds will be loved ones who have died from the disease or who survive in spite of it.

Until then, they are immersed in the details that come with planning and fundraising for a successful event.


"It goes all year around," Mary Erickson, chairwoman of the Zumbro Valley Stroll Committee, said of the work done by organizers and participants.

Goodhue County is ranked sixth nationally by the American Cancer Society among counties with a population between 40,000 and 50,000 for the amount of money raised per capita with Relay for Life events. The Zumbro Valley Stroll is one of two such events that take place in the county, with the other being the Mississippi Shuffle in Red Wing.

A group of volunteers organized the first Zumbro Valley Stroll in 2003 after walking for several years in the Red Wing event.

"We thought maybe we could get more people involved if we had it locally," said Erickson, a member of that group. "We decided that if we could raise even a little amount of money, it’s more ahead than they were with us doing nothing."

Erickson rallied behind the cause because her mother, who died in April 2002, lived with lung cancer for eight years.

"In this day and age, I think that everybody who gets involved knows somebody that’s been touched by cancer," she said.

In its inaugural year, the Zumbro Valley Stroll raised more than $68,000. By 2007, the amount increased to more than $108,000, with about 425 people from Zumbrota, Mazeppa, Goodhue, Wanamingo and Pine Island, walking at the overnight event.

Each participant registered with a team is expected to raise at least $100.


"There aren’t too many people who stop at $100," Erickson said.

Many teams do their fundraising by organizing snowmobile runs, bake sales, dances and Pampered Chef parties.

"It’s amazing what they get involved with," Erickson said. "They always have so many good ideas on different ways to raise money."

A pancake breakfast organized by the committee Sunday at the VFW in Zumbrota collected $1,370 before expenses. The money will be used to cover costs for the Zumbro Valley Stroll. Volunteers served about 270 people at the breakfast.

Just as impressive, Erickson said, is how everyone from the small communities comes together to accomplish a goal.

"It’s not like you feel like you’re out there on your own," Erickson said.

And when it comes to cancer, no one should face it alone.

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