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Cancer society fund raiser grows from Ramble to Relay

For more than 20 years Farmington's Ramble and Amble has been a successful fund raiser for the American Cancer Society. But the Ramble is about to become a Relay.

Later this month the American Cancer Society will hold its first Farmington Relay for Life.

The Ramble and Amble, which asked participants to spend a few hours walking laps around the paths at Dakota City Heritage Village, brought in $32,000 last year. But for Julie Fernandes, the event never seemed big enough.

Fernandes, whose mother died of cancer 15 years ago, lives in Farmington. But two years ago when she started looking for ways to help the cancer society she looked to not to Farmington's event, but to Lakeville's Relay for Life, a similar event that stretches its walking into a 12-hour, overnight marathon.

"I dedicate that time to my mom, and it's more significant to do it overnight," said Fernandes.

Fernandes said she likes walking early in the morning, before the sun comes up, when she can focus her thoughts on her mother.

It's because of people like Fernandes that Farmington's Ramble and Amble is walking off into the sunset.

Cancer society staff partner Melissa Thone described the change as making a good thing even better. The change will bring a national name to an event that's already done pretty well for itself.

The Farmington Relay for Life will join others that take place in Rosemount, Lakeville and a number of other area communities.

"It's taking this commitment that the Farmington community already has for the American Cancer Society, that they've had for the past 25 years, and revamping it, injecting some new energy and taking it to the next level," Thone said.

The overnight format is filled with symbolism. The 7 p.m. start, as the sun begins to set, represents the dark time when a patient first hears the word "cancer." The dark night symbolizes the patient's journey and the sunrise the next morning stands in for the end of treatment -- the light at the end of the tunnel, Thone said.

Relay for Life guidelines ask that at least one person on each team walk at all times, but for those who are not walking the event tends to turn into an impromptu community gathering. People bring tents and play catch or grill burgers while they're not on the track.

So far, reaction to the revamped event seems to be good. Thone said 11 teams will return from last year's Ramble and Amble and as of last week she'd gotten commitments from nine new teams, with time remaining to sign up. She hopes to collect $41,000.

Amber Kippley is on one of the new teams that will walk July 30 on the track at Robert Boeckman Middle School. Hers will be one of two teams walking in memory of her son, Andrew Kippley, who died of cancer last September at the age of 16. Kippley said one of Andrew's friends brought the idea to her and a number of people jumped on board. Between the two teams there are 23 people walking.

"Andrew was kind of a doer and a shaker and a giver and was pretty much up for any cause," Kippley said. "When he passed away we decided to carry on."

The teams dedicated to Andrew Kippley have already held some successful fund raisers to support their efforts.

Kippley said she's happy to give back to the cancer society for the support it offered while her son was going through treatment. She expects the event to be both uplifting and a little sad but she's looking forward to being involved.

"It sounds amazing. It sounds like a great big, huge community event where everybody is the same."

It had better be. The event has some big walking shoes to fill.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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