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Honoring parents’ cancer battle

About 80 people gathered at the World’s Largest Buffalo for a kickoff event for the Stutsman County Relay for Life Friday. Each person was given a balloon, formed a circle around the buffalo and then released the balloons. Chris Olson / The Sun

Barb Togstad stood in the cold and rain Friday evening with about 80 other people at a kickoff event for Stutsman County Relay for Life.

Togstad was responsible for coming up with the wreath chain that formed the ribbon that was draped around the neck of the World’s Largest Buffalo at Frontier Village. She said she put in about 55 hours finding the material and building the wreaths that make up the ribbon.

“There are 14 different colors representing the fight against different cancers, and the purple represents the Relay for Life,” she said.

The wreath chain was placed around the neck of the World’s Largest Buffalo Friday before the kickoff event started at 5:30 p.m. The people assembled for the kickoff gathered for prayer and to listen to music performed by Tamra Dallman and Kenny Gilbertson. To end the kickoff, the 80 or so people released balloons after they formed a circle around the buffalo.

Togstad is originally from Minot, but has lived in Jamestown for the last 30 years. She said she got involved with the Relay as she was a caregiver for her mother and father when they were diagnosed with different forms of cancer.

“My mom got lung cancer and my dad had pancreatic cancer. I was 27 years old and taking care of my parents,” she said.

Her parents died within six weeks of each other 39 years ago, Togstad said.

“It was hard, losing both mom and dad so close to each other,” she said.

Togstad said she didn’t get involved with Relay for Life until about 2000. She works at South Central Human Service Center in Jamestown and one of her coworkers mentioned there was a Relay for Life Team through the center.

“I didn’t know events like this (Relay for Life) even existed,” she said.

Togstad has been involved with the Relay ever since and will be walking with the South Central Human Service Center team again this year.

Togstad said making the wreaths for the wreath chain was a good choice for her. She said she knew it would take some effort to find the different colored material and the template for creating the wreaths. But, she said she also knew how important it was to have the different colors represented in the wreath chain.

“For people with cancer, I hope the (wreath) ribbon gives them hope, shows them that people care and are out there fighting for them,” Togstad said.

Togstad said she hopes the wreath chain draws some attention to the Relay and inspires more people to get involved, either by forming a team or volunteering to help.

“We can always use more people, more teams out there raising money to fight cancer,” she said.

The Stutsman County Relay for Life starts at 6 p.m. on June 21 at Taylor Stadium on the campus of the University of Jamestown. For more information about this year’s event, go to and type in Stutsman  County Relay for Life in the search field.

Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at

Chris Olson

Hometown: Traverse City, MI College: Northwestern Michigan College and Michigan State University

(701) 952-8454