Honor Hero of Hope

The 2014 Franklin County Relay for Life Hero of Hope is Emma Brune, standing, front right. Each year, a cancer survivor or caregiver who inspires those around them is nominated as the Hero of Hope. Emma was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, or several tumors in her right eye, when she was 6 months old. After undergoing chemotherapy, laser and cryotherapy, the tumors are now dead. She has been cancer-free for eight years and will celebrate her 9th birthday in March. Emma is a student at Spring Bluff elementary. Next to her is her sister, Allie Brune. Also shown, from left, are Tom Aholt, Relay co-chair; parents, Sarah and Jamie Brune, and Wendy Wildberger, Relay chair.  Missourian Photo.

This year’s Franklin County Relay for Life theme, “Get Your Game On and Finish the Fight,” was evident at a kickoff meeting Monday night.

Board games such as Chutes and Ladders, Sorry and Connect Four, among others were set out, providing inspiration for this year’s team captains. During the meeting, Pictionary, Minute to Win It and several other games were played.

The games were a preview of what fun can be had at the 19th annual event, set to begin Friday, June 13, at 6 p.m. at the Washington High School track. The closing ceremony will be Saturday, June 14, at 6 a.m.

This year’s committee members include Wendy Wildberger, event chair; Tom Aholt, co-chair, survivorship, golf tournament; Kristi Dewert, track signs, luminarias; Rhonda Mueller, entertainment, Bark for Life; Mirian Spellman and Chris Eckelkamp, both entertainment; Janice Humphrey, ceremonies; Shirley Thoms, hospitality; Dave Dieckhaus, security; and Liz Williams, American Cancer Society staff partner.

The website is relayforlife.org/franklinmo. People also may sign up for text messages by texting 4935 to 22723 (standard messaging rates apply).

The group has a new Facebook page at Relay for Life of Franklin County MO. The page is new, so those who have liked a page in the past must like the new page, Wildberger noted.

Hero of Hope

The Franklin County Relay has adopted a Hero of Hope program. Each year, a person or caregiver who encourages, supports and inspires others fighting cancer is recognized.

This year’s Hero of Hope is Emma Brune, an 8-year-old Leslie resident. Emma is the daughter of Sarah and Jamie Brune.

She was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, a cancerous tumor in her right eye, shortly after she was born in 2005.

At the meeting, Emma thanked the group for allowing her to be the Hero of Hope and left everyone with a quote she likes to live by.

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you think and smarter than you think,” she told the group.

Sarah Brune also spoke during the event. She said it was during a routine appointment that Emma’s pediatrician noticed that her right eye was not pulling the normal red reflex.

The family was sent to see an ophthalmologist at Children’s Hospital, where they were told Emma had several tumors in her eye and that her eye would need to be removed.

“No parent is ever ready to hear that their child has cancer and we were devastated,” she said.

The surgery was scheduled for two days later. In the surgery room, though, the family was told the tumors were not as large as first expected and there was a chance her eye could be saved with chemotherapy.

“We believe that a miracle occurred,” Sarah Brune said. “We were overjoyed and believe that the power of prayer was behind this miracle.”

After six months of chemotherapy and four more months of laser and cryotherapy, the tumors are now “dead.”

Emma does not have much sight in her right eye, but her mom said it doesn’t slow her down.

The family will celebrate Emma’s eighth year cancer free and her 9th birthday at Disney World this summer.

“The No. 1 reason we relay is for Emma, because she is our hero,” Sarah Brune said. “We pray that one day a cure will be found because of all of your help.”

Several past Heroes of Hope were at the meeting, including Lynette Roehrig, Lisa Beckerman, Sylvia Peterson and Wendy Wildberger.

Awards, Contests

As in years past, the Randy Carter spirit award will be presented to the team that has collected the most spirit bucks. Carter is a former committee member who lost his battle with cancer.

Spirit bucks can be earned by attending team captains’ meetings, by having survivors on your team, walking at the Relay and showing Relay spirit.

A new award, the Shining Star, was created to honor Deb Stelzer, another committee member who passed away in August 2013. Stelzer was the Relay’s top fund-raiser last year, raising $3,276.

“She was an encouragement to everyone,” Aholt said. “No matter how bad she felt, no matter what — Deb was there.”

Again this year, a “Mr. Relay” contest will be held. Male participants will take part in an evening gown competition, a talent competition and question and answer session.

Following the on-stage portion of the program, contestants will have the opportunity to walk around the track and collect money from Relay teams and participants. Survivors will judge the event.

For more information on Mr. Relay, people may contact Rhonda Mueller, 314-401-3642.

Other awards include top new team, top corporate team, top family team, top online fund-raising team, best campsite food, best dessert, best drink, best campsite decoration to the theme. Several individual awards also will be presented.

Relay Facts

Wildberger highlighted some facts about the American Cancer Society and the Relay for Life.

Since the Relay for life began in 1985, there have been more than 5,000 Relay events and more than $4 billion raised, which goes to American Cancer Society programs.

The most recent cancer facts showed an estimated 33,950 Missouri residents will be diagnosed with cancer in 2014.

Funds are used to help people stay well through education, cancer screenings and a staffed phone line to help afflicted patients 24 hours per day. The ACS is the nation’s largest private funder of cancer research.

Additionally, 937 national research and training grants are funded by the society, totaling $468 million.

Last year, $4.6 million was raised through Relay for Life events of the Eastern Missouri region.

“We need you to keep packing the track at relay and continue to do the fundraising that you guys do,” she said. “The American Cancer Society can do its part to fund more research programs, raise awareness to early detection, provide advanced treatments and continue to provide support for people diagnosed with cancer because of your efforts.”

Volunteers Needed

Those interested in handing out Relay goodies in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Washington March 8 can call Wildberger, 636-297-1000, or Aholt, 636-358-5602.

Corporate sponsorships are available at many levels. To inquire, call Wildberger or Aholt.

For more information on the Relay, people may call the numbers above, or email relayfranklinmo@yahoo.com.

The next committee meeting will be held Monday, March 24, at 6 p.m. at the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish Center.