It Only Takes A Spark Cancer Walk hosted another successful event on Friday, June 9. The organization has raised approximately $132,000 since August 1,... $132,000 Raised at The Annual Cancer Walk

It Only Takes A Spark Cancer Walk hosted another successful event on Friday, June 9. The organization has raised approximately $132,000 since August 1, 2016, in celebration of its 20th year.

The 2017 walk was cut short by high winds, but attendees nevertheless enjoyed live music, great food, games, and activities. According to Core Committee member Ann Tuchscherer, temperatures were in the 90s throughout the day, and remained near 80 at the walk’s conclusion on Saturday morning at 5 a.m.

The community picnic got things rolling at the first of the walk’s activities. Attendees enjoyed brats, burgers, and hot dogs along with potato salad, chips and a beverage. The picnic fare was prepared and organized by Hartman’s Family Foods, and Bob Hartman was assisted by Jim Trevett, Diana Snaza, the Hartman family, and Kiwanis Club members. Picnic-goers were greeted by music provided by Delvin & Cami Hackwith of Milbank and Ken and Penny Nelson of South Shore. Tuscherer said, “The couples donated their time and talents to enhance the walk.”

Eleven teams participated in fundraising, and each team was introduced during the Parade of Teams. They included: the Milbank School District’s Bulldogs Fighting Cancer; United Hardware’s United Pride; Great Western Bank, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; St. Williams/Whetstone Insurance, The Long Haulers; Milbank Avera Medical Group and Big Stone Therapies, the Marching Medics; Lewis Family Drug, Hunting for a Cure; Poet, Fueling for a Cure; State Auto Insurance, The Rockets; Nani O’Hana; Montage‘s Walkie Talkies; and the VFW Walking Warriors.

Lindsey Geyer, a 2017 MHS graduate, sang the national anthem. The Lap of Life was led by Deb Speidel, honorary chair, and members of her family. Many other cancer survivors walked the Lap of Life or rode the trolley provided and driven by Leonard Stengel.

Deloris Kelly, Cheryl Pauli, Kathy Cummins, Amanda Cummins, Shirley O’Brien, and Kay Thompson were recognized for their involvement in the cancer walk’s activities for all 20 years. Amanda Cummins, a Core Committee member for five years, presented each of them with a certificate and a Pearls of Hope bracelet with an attached 20-year charm. Ten-year honorees were also recognized. Former Core Committee members gathered on stage and contributed thoughts and comments regarding the cancer walk and its history.

Children romped on the inflatables, and Police Chief Boyd VanVooren organized a water balloon fight when the balloon launcher failed to launch. Paul and Jim Farrell coaxed bidders to commit during the public auction and garnered $5,250 for the cause. Auction items included: team baskets; a smoker donated by Seehafer Ace Hardware; quilts donated by Peggy Kranz, the Valley Piecemakers, and Bill Buttke; a handcrafted bench made and donated by Duane Tillman; a commemorative photo donated by the Minnesota Twins; a basket filled with a mixer and bakeware donated by the Doris Schwandt family; a two-night stay at Sam’s Cabin donated by the Jim Grorud family; a handcrafted wooden flag made and donated by Jeremy Wellnitz; and a glass-topped table made by the shops at Milbank High School. Team members also created and donated hand-crafted items. New to the walk this year, a silent auction won bids on decorative metal work made by the welding classes at Milbank High School.

The Merchants Fighting Cancer, coordinated by Twin Valley Tire and Mike Mach, organized the merchant tickets. George Smith was recognized for raising $4,300 through the sale of tickets. Smith, 86, challenged himself to beat the $3,000 he raised last year.

Raffle ticket winners were drawn and announced and a fireworks display was put on by Mark Popowski of Popper’s Fireworks. Betty’s Fireworks and Roger and Irene McCulloch contributed to the display.

Soon after the fireworks, Dale Nyreen, the Man in Black, conducted Karaoke for several hours. At the conclusion of Karaoke, it was determined the Minute to Win It games could not be played due to the increasing winds. Cleanup took place, and campers took down their campsites for another year.

Adding to the Walk’s total funds, were 2,780 luminaries lining the pathways of the park in honor or in memory of those who have had cancer. The list of names on the luminaries included almost 1,200 honorees. The Marching Medics once again led luminary sales with 500 names. They received a new award, “Lighting the Way.” Valley Queen also pledged to match $1,000 in employee luminary sales. They exceeded this goal and donated $2,205.

The walk concluded with breakfast pizza and additional awards. The Most Creative award went to The Rockets, sponsored by State Auto. Matt Scott, a former Core Committee member, built a rocket photo booth for State Auto’s campsite. Great Western Bank’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles garnered an Honorable Mention in this category. The Long Haulers, sponsored by St. Williams/Whetstone Insurance, earned the Spirit Award. Named Year-Round Fundraisers were the Bulldogs Fighting Cancer who are affiliated with the Milbank School District.

Other awards included the top corporate fundraiser which went to The Long Haulers, sponsored by St. Williams/Whetstone Insurance and the top non-corporate fundraiser awarded to the Bulldogs Fighting Cancer. Lewis Family Drug earned the prize of no registration fee next year as it collected the most money in its boot – part of the coin war Give Cancer the Boot. The boots collected spare change and were displayed at fundraising events, First Bank & Trust, Great Western Bank, and the Milbank Mall.

Total funds raised came from many sources throughout the year. In addition to team fundraising events, the campsites raised funds with food sales and games. The Core Committee sponsored an autumn Quarter Auction, organized by Amanda Hickman and Carrie Novy, and a spring Great Giveaway. Sponsorships add to the total, and memorials and donations came in throughout the year. The activities for the cancer walk are coordinated by the Core Committee which includes: Cummins, Aaron Anderson, Tuchscherer, Julie Landmark, and Lynn Wientjes.

There will be at least one spot opening up on the committee. Wientjes, a first year Core member, said, “It is an experience that no one can imagine. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I committed to such a great organization.” She added, “I wouldn’t change that decision one bit. It takes time, but you make that time as you are helping so many others.”

“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. Anyone interested in becoming a member of the committee can call a current Core Committee member or send an email to

On behalf of the Core Committee, Tuchscherer said, “We sincerely appreciate and thank all the teams, volunteers, and sponsors involved in this year’s walk. It takes a great many generous people to have the successful cancer walk that has become a tradition in Grant County.”

Donations to the cancer walk can be made online any time at, or they can be mailed to PO Box 105, Milbank, SD 57252.

Click here to see our complete photo album from The Cancer Walk.


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