According to cancer walk core committee member Ann Tuchscherer, It Only Takes A Spark set a new record last weekend. The cancer walk group raised approximately $164,000 during this fundraising year. Money continues to come in, which could push the total even higher. Recently, Robert Schultz of Spring Branch, Texas, a former Milbank resident and MHS alumnus, donated $15,000 and Monte Robinson of Milbank donated $10,000 on behalf of a family member.
Schultz has been battling cancer, but reported to Tuchscherer he is now cancer free, although he still has cancer-related health issues. Schultz told the core committee, “It is nice to make a donation that goes back into a community that has done so much for so many. Last year, several of my family members and friends benefited from It Only Takes A Spark.”
Every cancer walk has had its own personality and the 22nd Annual It Only Takes a Spark on Friday, June 14, was a hive of activity and conversation. Things began to buzz even more when a thunderstorm moved into the Lake Farley Park area and brought the walk to an abrupt end. Shortly after midnight, campsites were quickly dismantled. Campers were sent home.
Attendees at the community picnic, the first of the walk’s activities, enjoyed a cookout prepared and organized by Hartman’s Family Foods and served by the Kiwanis Club. Each of the 10 teams was introduced during the Parade of Teams after Levi Waddell offered a brief prayer. Teams included: The Milbank School District, Bulldogs Fighting Cancer; United Hardware, United Pride; Great Western Bank, Minions Fighting Cancer; St. Williams/Whetstone Insurance, The Cure Express; Milbank Avera Medical Group and Big Stone Therapies, The Marching Medics; Lewis Family Drug, Put Cancer on Ice; POET, Fueling a Cure; Nani O’Hana, Big Stone City Bookends; and VFW, Walking Warriors. Each team hosted a campsite with activities and food and JMS Rentals provided inflatables for children to bounce off their energy.
Hope Osborn, accompanied by Liz Schulte on the violin, sang The Star Spangled Banner. Tye Schaffer, nine-year-old honorary chairperson for the 2019 walk, led the Lap of Life along with members of his family and a National Guard Honor Guard.
Numerous other cancer survivors either walked the Lap of Life or rode the trolley provided by the City of Milbank. After the Lap of Life and balloon release, Paul and Jim Farrell encouraged higher bidding during the live auction which netted $4,155. In addition to auction items provided by the teams, the live auction included an embroidered lap quilt made by Ann Tuchscherer, two VIP tickets to the Farley Fest Country Concert, and a queen-size quilt donated by the Valley Piecemakers.
A silent auction offered further bidding opportunities. Items were donated by several teams and by Tuchscherer, Thrivent, United Hardware, Todd and Tessa Grabow, and First Bank and Trust.
The Merchants Fighting Cancer, coordinated by Twin Valley Tire and Mike Mach, organized the merchant ticket raffle. Annually, they offer many prizes, and with help from the teams, thousands of dollars are raised for the walk. George Smith was again top seller as he raised $3,450 in ticket sales. His granddaughter, Janelle Madsen, tracks the ticket sales at Twin Valley Tire. Smith, who is 88 years old, proved no one is ever too old to help others.
After the raffle ticket winners were announced, the luminaries were lit and the luminary names were read. Over 2,300 luminaries in honor or in memory of those who have had cancer lined the pathways of the park. The list included 1,162 honorees. The Lighting of the Way was followed by a fireworks display provided by Mark Popowski of Popper’s Fireworks, Don and Betty Mead of Betty’s Fireworks, and Roger and Irene McCulloch.
The walk concluded just after midnight when bad weather threatened the campers. Those who returned at 8 a.m. enjoyed breakfast before cleaning up the park. Awards will be presented at a wrap-up meeting on June 24 at the Milbank Visitor Center.
The total funds raised came from many sources throughout the year. In addition to team fundraising events, the campsites donate money from food sales and games. The core committee raised funds by sponsoring a spring Great Giveaway that featured a gun auction, a dessert auction, and the distribution of over $5,000 in prizes. Sponsorships also added to the total, and memorials, donations, and Thrivent Choice dollars came in throughout the year. A Runnings Ladies Night and a Hartman’s Family Foods Change for Change event also made positive impacts on the total. Jody Kuper, a Valley Queen employee, made a $1,500 donation through a Valley Queen charitable program, and Matt Scott gave a generous donation that was matched by State Auto. Additional donations in varying amounts added to the record-breaking total for the year.
The activities for the cancer walk are coordinated by the core committee which includes: Aaron Anderson, Ann Tuchscherer, Julie Landmark, Alex Pauli, and Lynn Wientjes. “I encourage anyone who wants to continue the fight against cancer and help those affected by cancer in the greater Grant County area to form a team, sponsor a fundraising event, donate a memorial gift, or join the core committee,” said Anderson, core committee president. “New teams are always welcome.”
On behalf of the core committee, Tuchscherer added, “We sincerely appreciate and thank all the teams, volunteers, businesses, and sponsors involved in this year’s fundraising efforts. It takes many generous people to have the successful cancer walk that has become a tradition in Grant County.” It Only Takes A Spark is currently providing financial assistance to over 100 cancer patients in the greater Grant County area.
Donations can be made online anytime at www.takesaspark.org, or mailed to PO Box 105, Milbank, SD 57252.