Annual SACS walk set for Aug. 2
Sparta Area Cancer Support, Inc. (SACS) will once again be hosting its annual Walk/Rally at Sparta Memorial Field Track on Friday, August 2 from 4 p.m. until midnight
SACS was established by a group of community members in 2000 to tackle the overwhelming burden associated with cancer in the Sparta area. The American Cancer Society used to host a Relay For Life in Sparta raising money for cancer research.
Once it was discovered that less than five percent of the money raised stayed in Monroe County, the group formed SACS and they began raising funds to support local cancer victims and fund local cancer research.
“It started to keep the money local,” Co-President Gary Peterson said.
The organization is comprised of volunteers giving freely of their time and hearts; none of the money raised goes toward paying salaries of any kind. SACS’ service area includes the communities of Cashton, Cataract, Leon, Melvina, Norwalk, Rockland and Sparta.
The nine-member board of directors, along with the input from members of SACS, determines annually the destination of the dollars raised. Local cancer patients can apply for assistance by downloading an application at spartaareacancersupport.org or by contacting SACS at (608) 269-1880.
Funds dispersed to individuals or families fighting cancer are available to provide assistance with groceries, transportation costs, medication or other necessities based on need. Annually, SACS typically raises over $100,000 through various fundraisers and donations.
Though SACS helps so many local residents, the organization itself has needs. It needs volunteers and/or more people interested in helping make a difference to get involved on its board.
“We’re an aging board and trying to get younger people involved, it’s not easy,” board member Paul Oswald said. “I think we’re all open to suggestions.”
Ironically, throughout the year, SACS receives numerous donations of money raised by kids from local schools. According to Peterson, parents and staff help their children and students raise funds but most individuals of that generation lead very busy lives so getting them to volunteer on the board is challenging.
SACS meets the second Monday of the month February through July at Sparta Mayo Clinic Health System in the Antonia Conference Room at 7 p.m. The meetings, which are held to plan the annual Walk/rally fundraiser, are open to the public, SACS Board of Directors, along with a committed group of volunteers.
This year’s Walk/Rally is packed full of activities. The gates open at 4 p.m. and there will be live entertainment from Laurel Brandt.
Locks for SACS is at 5:30 p.m. and the opening ceremonies and the cancer survivors’ lap, where survivors in attendance are presented with a rose, will begin at 6 p.m.
“I wish we could get more survivors to attend and I understand it’s emotional but we deal with cancer,” Petson said. Board member Priscilla Hemmersbach added the board itself has three cancer survivors.
Sara Schauf, who’s husband Darren recently passed away after his battle with cancer, will speak at the event during the opening ceremony.
“She has been overwhelmed with the support the community has given her so she’s going to give a little speech,” Peterson said, adding a 14-year-old boy with acute leukemia, who is a spokesperson for Children’s Miracle Network, will also be speaking during the opening ceremony.
More entertainment will begin at 6:30 p.m. with the Rick Guldenaar Band. The raffles begin at 8 p.m. and there will also be a bake sale throughout the evening; for individuals interested in helping, contact Joanne Bohnert at (608) 269-7176.
The Community Wishing Tree will be lit at 9 p.m. prior to the luminary ceremony at 9:15 p.m. Attendees can purchase and decorate ornaments to be hung on the wishing tree at the event or prior to it by contacting board member Kay Kast at (608) 269-4311.
“I want people to know that it’s truly a community event. It’s not just for cancer patients. If they want to put it (the ornament) in memory of a parent who died in a car accident or from a heart attack that’s fine,” Kast explained. “It can be any sentiment, it doesn’t have to be regarding cancer.”
The wishing tree began last year in lieu of releasing balloons during the event. During the lighting of the tree, there will be a ceremony followed by the lighting of the luminaries, which is the main event.
The luminary form can be found on page 5A in this edition of the Herald. Luminaries can also be purchased at the walk.
“When the field is darkened and all of these luminaries are around the football field in memory or in honor of an individual it is quite the sight,” Peterson said, adding last year they lit 1,800 luminaries. “The names are read as people walk the track and it’s powerful.”