School helps in cancer fight

FOR A GOOD CAUSE — Martin County West’s volleyball team recently participated in Volleyball Cancer Survivor Night at the school in Sherburn. Front row from left: Annie Baker, Hope Bicknase, Hallie Olson and Deanna Garbers. Back row: Lexie Lange, Maia Taylor, Renae Eckmann, Coach Kayla Zehms, Erin Tlam, Mercedes Moeller, Ashley Lyon, Jade Miller and Emma Behrends.

SHERBURN — Martin County West volleyball players recently got a chance to play in what has become a meaningful tradition.

A match last week marked the eighth year of the school’s Volleyball Cancer Survivor Night, which, according to head coach Kayla Zehms, is put on primarily by players and parents.

Judy Traetow also has been heavily involved, and she and Zehms shared some information about taking part:

“Putting it together means finding people to walk with each athlete and creating a shirt to help raise money, and then people donate things to the silent auction,” Zehms said.

“The Cancer Survivor Night would not happen if it wasn’t for all the work that parents, coaches and players put in to make the event a success,” Traetow said. “We also get assistance from our local Relay for Life team. We start each year as soon as the volleyball season starts.

“Parents volunteer to organize the different activities, organize and call cancer survivors, solicit auction items and order T-shirts. The players also run a car wash. The night of the event, parents bring in baked goods for sale.”

When asked what it is like to be a part of the event, Traetow finds it rewarding to help honor those in the community who are actively fighting cancer, along with those who have been living cancer-free. Zehms also shared her thoughts.

“I was one of the groups that participated as a player and a coach now,” Zehms said. “From a player’s eyes, it is a really neat thing to see all the people who have kicked cancer and it also brought to my attention how big cancer is and how it can affect people and families. As a player, it was great to be one the first years to have this event happen and to see how it has grown.

“As a coach it means so much more, because you really see all the behind the scenes work that goes into the event. You see how grateful the community is that we do this event. You see the amount that is raised to help.”

The event is a successful one, usually raising more than $5,000 each year. Traetow said that with the recent match, there has been about $55,000 raised in total.

“A few years into the event, we decided to partner with the Mayo Clinic [in] Fairmont,” Traetow said. “We wanted the donation to stay local and it is our hope that the additional money raised will make it possible for more members of our community to receive their treatments locally, instead of having to travel to Mankato or Rochester.”

In closing, Zehms is glad Martin County West can participate in the event, but she is also excited to see other schools do the same thing.

“I think it is awesome how other schools in our area also put on a cancer night,” she said. “This all happened because someone had an idea and now look at how far it is has come. When we have traveled for our games, there were two other schools who had their cancer night and I know almost every school in our area does it. It’s great to see the growth and support we have for anyone who is fighting, has fought, and to help raise money to further research.”