Going in Circles, or: Cancer Has No Hands


            In a world where it seems like everyone’s just going in circles, it’s nice to know some people are doing it for a reason.

            In 1985, one man decided he’d circle a track for 24 hours. I know, crazy – right? He must be a mental case, or the worst kind of out of touch person: a politician. But no, it turns out he did it in an attempt to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

            I probed further and discovered colorectal surgeon Dr. Gordy Klatt … okay, poor choice of words with the probe thing. I once asked my urologist what his favorite prostate inspection joke was, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

            In his business Klatt saw plenty of cancer, so he wanted to support his patients and help the local ACS office. Turns out Klatt was also a marathon runner, so in May, 1985, he ran for more than 83 miles over the course of a full day. Friends donated $25 each to go along with him for 30 minutes of his marathon.

            Was it successful? He raised $27,000 for the fight against cancer.

            (By the way, this isn’t an effort to raise money “for cancer”. You don’t want cancer to have money. Besides, cancer has no hands. No, you raise money to fight cancer, and if cancer doesn’t like that – too bad.)

            Klatt had a lot of time to think during those 24 hours. This was pre-iPod, after all. It’s true, there really was a time before iPods. He came up with the idea of a relay event, and a year later 19 teams took place in the very first Relay for Life.

            Now teams participate in 21 countries. Four million Americans in 5,000 communities took part last year  – less than those who cook out on Memorial Day weekend, but slightly more than the number who’ve sent death threats to Justin Bieber. Maybe The Beeb would be less hated if people knew about the nine charities he supports, but that’s another story.

There’s even a virtual fundraising event, Relay For Life of Second Life, which has raised over a million dollars. I don’t even have time to deal with first life.

This makes The ACS Relay For Life the world’s largest grassroots fundraising movement, unless you count the people who call in to vote on American Idol. In addition to being a good cause, it gives participants a chance to live their childhood dream of staying up all night since, after all, cancer never sleeps. (It has no hands, and thus can’t pull on its pajamas.)

Participants can stay up all night, sleep in the tents while other team members are on the track, or even go home to nap – it’s not the technicalities that matter so much as the fund raising. On the other hand, there’s a lot of fun stuff going on at the Relays, and if you sleep you miss it.

It might seem strange to have fun while fighting something so evil, but one Relay theme is “Celebrate. Remember. Fight back.” As a humor columnist and a well-known walking disaster whose own theme is “What could possibly go wrong?” I know better than anyone that such things are better faced with love and laughter. Besides, it’s working: Thanks to new research and treatment, cancer survivors celebrate more birthdays every year.

How did I get involved in the Relay? Good question; thanks for asking, Mom. About four years ago I was approached by a coworker who asked, “You write part time, don’t you?”

“No,” I said. That’s my default self-preservation response to the question, but he knew about my column, fiction writing, and vicious letters to the editor, and asked me to do public information work for the Noble County Relay For Life.

“But I don’t wanna,” I didn’t say that out loud, because it’s everyone’s responsibility to give something back to the community. And to use their turn signals

After all, half of all men and one third of women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes, and all of us will be affected in one way or another. So I signed up, because I have a certain small amount of talent in writing and because, like voting or trimming your nose hairs, it’s the right thing to do.

A couple of years after that I got my own biopsy, and began an ongoing process of having my prostate watched by my urologist, who I’ve nicknamed Doctor Digit. It was just this year when my stepfather had his operation for bladder cancer.

So here I am again, pushing the Noble County Relay For Life that’s coming up May 19th this year, at the West Noble High School south of Ligonier. We’re all connected, you see.

Better to be connected in fighting cancer, rather than having it drag us all down. Not that it could, ‘cause we’re stronger than that … and it doesn’t have any hands.

For more information about the Noble County Relay For Life, go to www.relayforlife.org/noblecountyin.

You can also contact Noble County Chairperson Carla Fiandt at the Community State Bank in Albion, by e-mail at carlaf@csbemail.com, or by phone at 260-636-3744. Or, e-mail Team Recruitment Chair Stacey Lang at esclang@hotmail.com, or American Cancer Society representative Melissa Stephens at melissa.stephens@cancer.org, or 260-471-3911.

train derailment

I talked to Associated Press at work earlier, so if you hear an AP story about the train derailment near Ligonier, Indiana, and they mention a Mark Hunter -- that was me.

Happy 9th anniversary to my publisher

In honor of my publisher’s 9th birthday, for a few more days Whiskey Creek Press is offering 9 e-books for 99 cents – and one for free:


Single antibody shrinks variety of human tumors transplanted into mice, study shows

Single antibody shrinks variety of human tumors transplanted into mice, study shows

If this pans out, it might be just the breakthrough we all are hoping for.

2012 Relay Goal: More Birthdays

            The Noble County Relay For Life has set a goal to raise $49,000 this year toward the fight against cancer, and they want to organize 40 teams to do it with.

            So far 22 teams have registered for the American Cancer Society event, which begins at 10 a.m. May 19 at the West Noble High School, south of Ligonier. Anyone wishing to form or join a team, or help out in any other way, can register online at www.relayforlife.org/noblecountyin.

            The theme for this year’s Relay is “Birthdays”, and organizers are hoping teams will decorate their campsites accordingly. Team members can go “Over the hill”, “Sweet 16”, or anything else birthday related – except birthday suits!

            Teams are encouraged to search out a variety of fund raising activities: Everything from bake sales to dinners, lemonade or food stands, putting out coin cans that are available from the ACS, or selling luminary bags or Relay “feet”. Teams can secure sponsorships that count toward their fundraising efforts, do fund raisers on site during the Relay, or sell track signs that are available for a donation of $100 per sign. Corporate sponsors are always welcome.

            The 2012 Relay For Life will again feature Quarters For a Cure – an attempt to line the inside of the West Noble School track with quarters – so everyone should bring their quarters in. If the entire track is lined, the total would be estimated at around $4,000. The Relay will also feature a silent auction, in addition to numerous activities.

            A current fund raising challenge is for members to raise $250 through online donations by the end of March, and amount that will win them a prize.

            The next team meeting is April 19, 7 p.m., in the lower level of the Noble County Public Library main branch in Albion. New team registration forms need to be turned in by the last team captain meeting, on May 10.

Announcements, ideas, news, and registration information can all be found on the website at www.relayforlife.org/noblecountyin. For further information contact Noble County Chairperson Carla Fiandt at Community State Bank in Albion, by e-mail at carlaf@csbemail.com, or by phone at 260-636-3744, or e-mail Team Recruitment Chair Stacey Lang at esclang@hotmail.com.

Celebrity Hoosiers Abound


            A lot of great or famous people come from Indiana. (You can be famous without being great, of course – especially these days.) I recently read of the death of a man who isn’t well known, but probably should be – a man who hailed from Professor Harold Hill’s favorite place, Gary, Indiana.

            Gary is, of course, the former stomping grounds of the Jackson family, who have some small amount of talent in the singing and dancing field. People like that tend to migrate from The Middle to the Coasts, where the entertainment jobs are, so Michael and his kin are often thought of as Californians.

            Much as I love Indiana, I can see a certain advantage of being in California … especially around, say, January.

            The man I’m speaking of is Ralph McQuarrie, and if you haven’t heard of him you’ve definitely heard of the jobs he was involved with. McQuarrie, who sure enough moved to California, died this month at the age of 82.

            Some celebrities came to Indiana, some stayed, and some moved on. (That’s why we can claim Abe Lincoln, who didn’t stick around.) John Chapman came from Massachusetts, but headed out looking for a state he could more easily spell. Looking to keep him busy and out of trouble, John’s father (a former Minuteman at Concord) apprenticed him as an orchardist, which is a real word. As a result, John’s purported burial place in Fort Wayne is now called Johnny Appleseed Park.

            There was also Ambrose Burnside, a Civil War general whose odd facial hair gave us the term sideburns; Benjamin Harrison, who lived in the White House for a short time before he traded it in for dying; actors Brendan Fraser, Carole Lombard, Shelley Long, Steve McQueen, and James Dean, among others; that David Letterman fellow; and of course Tony Stewart, famous for driving in circles … much like anyone trying to drive around Indianapolis.

            Speaking of trying to find your way around Indianapolis, aviator Amelia Earhart is from Indiana and so, perhaps ironically, is Wilbur Wright. Also Jim Davis, although talking about his creation (Garfield) makes me sneeze.

            Then there were more notorious Hoosiers: bank robber John Dillinger; D.C. Stephenson, Grand Hoopla of the Klu Klux Klan and all-around nasty guy; and of course Jimmy Hoffa, who for all we know might still be here.

            Ralph McQuarrie wasn’t as famous as those people, but he also didn’t end up in prison or cement overshoes.

            There were even some fairly well known people who lived right here in my area. For instance, Earl Butz (stop it, that was his name) came from the Albion area to become Secretary of Agriculture, and Kendallville’s Brad Miller is apparently a pretty good basketball player.

I don’t follow basketball, but as a writer I appreciate knowing I share a county with the home of author Gene Stratton-Porter, whose books were turned into movies just as mine are going to be. (It’s important to have confidence, people!) Also from here was Arthur F. Mapes, Indiana State Poet Laureate, who wrote the official state poem. It starts with: “There once was a lady from Muncie …”

            Then there’s Ford Frick, a fellow writer from Wawaka (where you’ll find a company of the same name). He must have pursued his dreams, because he became Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

            As far as professions are concerned, maybe my favorite Hoosier celebrity is Jamie Hyneman, who became famous as one of the Mythbusters. Blowing up stuff for a living? That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

            Oh yeah – you’re probably still wondering about Ralph McQuarrie.

Well, a long time ago a young movie maker asked him to do some design work for a proposed motion picture. McQuarrie didn’t think anything would come of it – after reading the script, he decided it would be too expensive to make – but he did paintings of a gold-plated robot in a desert, and a villain in a Samurai-inspired helmet. Then, because the movie opening took place in space, he put a breathing apparatus on the black-clad bad guy.

            The movie had already been rejected by United Artists and Universal but, when they saw McQuarrie’s drawings, 20th Century Fox execs green lighted it.

            They called the movie Star Wars, and it probably never would have been made without McQuarrie’s art of clashing lightsabers and battling spaceships.

            Oh, and here’s something fun: McQuarrie even made an appearance in the series, playing a Rebel general in the second movie. Still, I would guess the artist, who started out doing animation for CB S News coverage of the Apollo space program, preferred to stick to his first love. In addition to providing illustrations and concepts for the first three Star Wars movies, he worked on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek IV, and Jurassic Park, among others.

            It’s that kind of behind the scenes work that brings us the spectacular entertainment we’ve come to expect, so we should all be glad people like McQuarrie brought their considerable talent to Hollywood. It’s nice to know Indiana does its share, too … makes you wonder where the next big Hoosier find will come from, doesn’t it?

            Hopefully it’ll be somebody who owes me money.

Pearldrops on the Page: Laughter: Better Than an Apple

Pearldrops on the Page: Laughter: Better Than an Apple: I have decided this week to share a review I did for humorist Barry Parham. So, please sit back, get some popcorn, and enjoy the laughter! ...

Storm Chaser in the library

One of those weird things that gives new writers a surreal feeling: Storm Chaser is a library book, available at all three branches of the Noble County Public Library:


Notice they have the name of the book wrong; I’ll work on getting that corrected. Still … cool!

Of course, it’s always better to own a copy.  :->