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East Ridge students visit Hope Lodge in Minneapolis

East Ridge High School students pose for a photo at the Hope Lodge in Minneapolis. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker

Every year the Relay for Life of South Washington County event raises gobs of cash to battle cancer.

On April 26, a group of East Ridge High School students got to see where some of that money goes.

The students visited the Richard M. Schulze American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Minneapolis, where they provided ice cream treats to the facility's residents and guests.

The Hope Lodge, located in southeast Minneapolis near the University of Minnesota campus, provides private rooms for cancer patients and their caregivers. The facility provides residency free of charge through the American Cancer Society.

Dave Olson, logistics chairman of the local Relay for Life organization, attended the event with the students. He said visiting Hope Lodge is an effective way to show people where Relay money goes.

Meeting the facility's residents makes the experience much more hands-on for young people, he added.

"There's a connection right here," Olson said.

The visit was coordinated by Kelsey Lisowski, a junior at East Ridge.

She said the visit was part of her mission to bring more youth involvement to the cause.

Lisowski echoed Olson's sentiments: experiencing Hope Lodge brings a different level of tangibility to Relay efforts.

"This is why we Relay," she said, "not just to have fun at social events. We want to convey that message to the community."

Lisowski said she got involved in Relay efforts not just because volunteering is important to her, but because she has known young people touched by cancer. She said the late Ann Haering, a class of 2011 East Ridge student, was among them.

"Even if you didn't know her and you went to East Ridge, you were affected," Lisowski said of Haering, whose battle against cancer spurred rallies from classmates.

Lisowski said she plans to go to medical school with the goal of becoming a pediatric oncologist.

Other students at the event included East Ridge sophomore Raji Geneti. She said the event opened her eyes to the reality of cancer.

"You get a different point of view on what cancer really is and how it affects people," she said.

Olson's daughter, Bridget Olson, was also along for the visit. The East Ridge sophomore scooped out ice cream for Hope Lodge residents.

"Cancer touches a lot of people's lives," she said, adding that her mother is a cancer survivor. "It's important to give back and help find a cure."

This year's Relay for Life of South Washington County is 6 p.m. June 8 at East Ridge.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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