Hero of Hope

The 2012 Franklin County Relay for Life Hero of Hope is Sylvia Peterson, center. Peterson was diagnosed with breast cancer on Valentine’s Day in 1995. She has participated in the Franklin County Relay all 17 years and trained a team captain at CG Power Systems before her retirement in 2012. Since her remission, Peterson’s mother and brother both were diagnosed with, and have lost their battles with cancer. Peterson told her story during the Relay kickoff meeting Monday, Feb. 18. With her are the 2013 relay chair Wendy Wildberger, left, and co-chair, Karla Frank.    Missourian Photo.

Survivors, team captains, supporters, caregivers and committee members gathered for the annual Relay for Life kickoff meeting Monday, Feb. 18, at Our Lady of Lourdes Church.

This year’s Relay is set for June 7-8 at the Washington Fairgrounds.

Wendy Wildberger, Relay for Life chair, and Karla Frank, co-chair, showed several videos and talked with the group about Relay’s overall theme: “Dream Big, Hope Big, Relay Big —Why Not?”

The Franklin County theme is “Surviving More Holidays.” The fairgrounds will be decked out in holiday decorations and holiday themed booths. The fund-raising goal, set by the American Cancer Society, is $128,000.

“Relay has been around for 28 years now and has grown to be a true movement to end cancer, not just in the United States, but around the world, and that is darn awesome,” Wildberger said. “But the truth is, to keep Relay constantly evolving and changing, we need some darn good ideas and people who think outside the track.”

Wildberger said the “Why Not?” is a challenge to teams to think big and try to take Relay to the next level.

“As in, why not give it a try?” she said, adding that challenge extends one step further to “one more.”

“Why not can turn into one more team, one more event sponsor, one more survivor on the track on June 7th experiencing Relay for the first time,” Wildberger said.

Hero of Hope

Perhaps the most important aspect of the kick-off meeting was the introduction of the 2013 Franklin County Hero of Hope, Sylvia Peterson.

Tom Aholt, survivor chair, introduced Peterson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer on Valentine’s Day in 1995.

Her cancer required surgery and lymph dissection and radiation, but did not require chemotherapy, which Peterson said she was thankful for.

Peterson shared her story and told the group how difficult it was to tell the ones she loved that she had cancer.

Because she had two previous benign lumps removed, she thought the third lump was another false alarm, but found out that wasn’t the case.

“What I remember the most is all the love I experienced during this time,” she said.

Later, her mother developed breast cancer and at age 90 her treatment was stopped. Then, her brother developed leukemia.

The two walked side by side one lap around the track prior to his passing.

“My experience with cancer has given me a new respect for those who fight,” she said, adding that she loves helping others through their journey.

“Sometimes just being there with a gentle touch is all that is necessary,” she said.

Peterson is celebrating her 18th year of remission and has been with Relay for Life of Franklin County since it began. She worked for CG Power Systems before retiring in 2012. Prior to her retirement, she trained a new Relay team captain.

“I will continue (fighting cancer) as long as it takes,” she said. “Won’t it be great when cancer is eradicated?”

Franklin County Relay

This is the 17th year Franklin County has participated in the Relay.

This year, there is a new Relay For Life app available for smartphone and tablet devices. Using the app, people can track their team’s progress, track individual progress, find templates for messages for sponsorships or team members, personalize their Relay for Life Page, post to Facebook, get Twitter updates and find out where and when other Relays are happening, as well as directions.

Those who don’t have smart devices or who would like can get Relay updates via text may send a “4935” to 22723. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Committee members include Terri O’Rear, Tom Aholt, Kristi Dewert, Bill Kuhlmann, Bob Overschmidt, Nikki Harrison, Kelly Harrison, Suzie Kuhlmann, Shirley Thoms, Dave Dieckhaus, Rhonda Mueller, Janice Humphrey, Pam Williams, Tina Hampton, Chris Eckelkamp and Tracy Skinner.


The Franklin County Relay for Life was presented with its second “Thanks a Million” award during a divisional summit this past summer. The county has raised $2,125,259.56 in 17 years.

The Relay also won the “per capita” award in the 100,000 to 149,999 population with an average of $1.50 donated from each person in the county.

The Relay for Life is seeking corporate sponsors at a $250, $500 and $1,000 level.

For more information on the Relay, people may call Wildberger, 636-297-1000, visit www.relayforlife.org/franklinmo, or email relayfranklinmo@yahoo.com.