By Ernie Copper
American Cancer Society Community Manager
As the community manager for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Ellwood, I recognize Ewing Park as a community hub. Each year, we participate in a variety of activities held in the park to promote our annual Relay for Life event, which includes special recognition for all cancer survivors as well as cancer awareness activities.
We have been participating in Christmas Tree Lane each year, to celebrate the season with the community and help promote cancer awareness. Each year a small group of leadership volunteers gather on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to help light and decorate the tree, sometimes using special colored ribbons to represent different types of cancer, other times using inexpensive, handmade ornaments celebrating the theme of the Relay that particular year. We always take pride in our local Relay events and celebrate the difference that it makes in the fight against cancer.
The annual Earth Day celebration is another way we enjoy the park. Earth Day is very family-oriented and so is Relay, so it makes sense for our Relay to join in the Earth Day fun. We usually feature a game for kids that ties in with our Relay theme while being respectful of Earth Day as well. It is also a great way for us to promote attendance to our free cancer survivor’s luncheon later in the summer. Last year we featured a scavenger hunt for a wooden butterfly for cancer survivors. When they found it, they shared their cancer story on it and it became part of much larger display at the Mall of America with other wooden butterflies. The park is also a great place to enjoy outdoor exercises such as running, walking, skateboarding, or just spending a special day with the kids to play on the play gym.
We have often enjoyed Helling Stadium as the site for our Relay for Life event. Its location in the park, with easy access from Route 65, comfortable walking track, and ample parking, helps make our events success. The school district has been most cooperative with our requests and we always do our best to leave the facilities just a little cleaner than they were when we arrived. We even enjoyed the company of NHL pro hockey player Stephen Johns last year for an autograph session!
We have also enjoyed the picnic shelters in the park on many occasions for our Relay wrap-up meetings. They ensure that we have a dry, comfortable place to meet regardless of the weather when we get together at the end of the season to celebrate our success.