Neither the hot sun nor a sea of floodwater could keep the Pottawattamie County Relay for Life from marching on.

The event was held Saturday evening in and around the River’s Edge Pavilion — high above the flooded park.

Twenty-one teams participated in this year’s relay, which had the theme, “A Passport to Hope,” said Amy Graber of Treynor, coordinator of team development.

Supporters have raised about $64,500 of this year’s goal of $75,000 and will continue working toward the goal until late July, according to Suzanne Mages, senior community development manager. Donations can be dropped off at Cobalt Credit Union on Madison Avenue, given to team members or submitted online at

The 2019 Top Team is the Soccer Fanatics, led by Kathy Fox, which has raised almost $13,000, Mages said. The group, made up of family and friends from the Carson area, held a dinner, live auction, raffles and a game show as fundraisers.

The relay is now an international event and is held in 29 different countries, said Graber’s son, Cameron.

A Cub Scout group provided a color guard for the kickoff ceremony, and Brianna Longwill and her mother, Mercedes Webster, sang the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Webster lives in California but often comes to the Pottawattamie County event.

“They don’t have it in our town anymore, so when we heard Katie (Smith, Longwill’s sister) was doing the relay here, we started coming here,” she said.

Smith served as the announcer for the kickoff ceremony.

Participants did laps on a circular sidewalk in front of the pavilion that was not quite one-eighth of a mile, or about half the length of a standard track, according to Michelle Poast, chairwoman of the event. The shorter distance is better for some of the survivors, Mages said. Some walked across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge to the Omaha side, where the Santa Lucia Festival was being held.

Seventy-seven cancer survivors registered for the event, said Joey Smith, survivor lead.

“Everybody’s been touched by it,” including some of her relatives, she said.

A dinner was held for survivors inside the pavilion, and the traditional survivor and luminaria ceremonies were held later in the evening.

“We were really happy to be able to offer a hot meal donated and prepared by the Wilderness Warriors team (the David and Anita Osborn family and friends) and served in an air-conditioned location,” Mages said.

Many of the teams held fundraisers during the relay, selling products, raffle tickets, etc.

“Everything we do, everything we raise tonight — all these teams — goes to American Cancer,” Smith said.

Multiple generations of some families team up to support the cause, Mages said.

“This is usually true in all my events,” she said. “The families who rally and fight back against the disease that has touched or taken their loved ones are usually very passionate about making sure their loved one feels supported or honored. They come together to make sure that the next time someone in their family hears a cancer diagnosis, they know that the progress made through their fundraising efforts will change the experience through treatment advances, new drug therapies and survival rates.”

Such is the case with The Four Grand, said Colleen Medearis of Council Bluffs. The team was named after four grandparents in the family who were lost to cancer, she said. Two of her brothers are cancer survivors and were there to participate in the relay.

In keeping with this year’s theme, teams were encouraged to pick a country as a theme for their booths. Four Grand chose France as its theme and displayed miniature Eiffel Towers. In addition, members operated a small food stand, dubbed “le Café de Paris,” that offered fresh pastries based on French recipes.

The CHI Midnight Strollers, whose team was named when the relay used to last through the night, chose Italy for its theme. Their booth was decorated with small Italian flags and pictures of Italian scenes. Team member Julia Gubbels, who happens to be Graber’s sister, used to work in Pottawattamie County but actually lives in Winterset.

“Amy — she’s been involved in the relay for quite some time, and I just help with some events,” she said.

Other special activities included a hula hoop contest, live performance by students from Kerri’s Dance Studio, Kids Traveling the World activities, Parade of Countries lap, Mascot Mingle, Pool Toy Relay, trivia contest, Bubbles to Heaven lap and silent auction.

Mages also oversaw the Mills County Relay for Life Saturday at Lake Park in Glenwood and the Fremont-Page relay Sunday in Essex. The Crawford County Relay for Life will be held Friday in Denison.

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