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Shuffle still making strides

Gramma's Gang includes (from left) Judy Burow, Brandy Anderson, LaVonne Thomforde, Gloria Boldt, Wendy Peterson and Bev Hawkinson. Boldt, who helped found the Mississippi Shuffle 25 years ago, said her team keeps evolving as friends, children and grandchildren leave to form new teams and help the Mississippi Relay for Life continue. "That's what you want," she said. (Republican Eagle photo by Anne Jacobson)1 / 2
The Mississippi Shuffle Relay for Life's 48 teams raised more than $135,000 this year, according to pledges. The event started Friday afternoon and concluded Saturday morning at Bay Point Park. (Republican Eagle photo by Anne Jacobson)2 / 2

Gloria Boldt looked around Bay Point Park Saturday morning and smiled. The 25th Mississippi Shuffle was wrapping up.

Twenty-five years of walking. More than $2.2 million raised. Thousands of people's lives touched.

"It's been so gratifying," Boldt said.

She's a cancer survivor herself these days, but she was hale and healthy when she helped found the local American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

"At that time, I told the reporter, 'I might as well work now for the cancer society because someday -- like everybody else -- I'll have it,'" Boldt said.

The opening ceremony Friday evening featured more than 200 people wearing purple Mississippi Shuffle shirts, indicating they too are cancer survivors.

"That just goes to prove how much we've accomplished," Boldt said Monday.

She reported that this year's Mississippi Shuffle had exceeded $132,000 when the walking ended Saturday morning. Organizers expect to collect another $4,000 in sponsorships this week.

The walk began after Boldt and her husband, Roger, attended a 1988 cancer workshop in Breezy Point, Minn. At that time, Red Wing had a "bail and bail" event to raise funds for the American Cancer Society, and the Boldts' booth ended up next to Dr. Gordy Klatt's display.

They got to chatting, she recalled, and the Tacoma, Wash., colorectal surgeon told them how he covered 83 miles in 24 hours circling the University of Puget Sound's track in 1985.

He raised $27,000 that May. Throughout the night, friends paid $25 to run or walk 30 minutes with him, according to the American Cancer Society website Within a few months, he'd pulled together a committee for what became the City of Destiny Classic 24-Hour Run Against Cancer.

"We knew we had to get one at Bay Point Park," Boldt said.

The Boldts returned home committed. Al and Linda Quarnstrom, Avis Lind and Brad and Pat Friedrich worked with them to plan the first Mississippi Shuffle. Nancy Harris, who died this summer of cancer, designed the logo.

"That's where we got the teepee and tennis shoe," Boldt said.

The ten inaugural teams raised $12,000.

"The first walk was 24 hours, but that got to be too much. We switched it to 18 hours," she said.

The walk also eventually added American Cancer Society Relay for Life to its name. The national rules now allow 15 members instead of 10. That's reduced the number of teams locally from a high of 66 to this year's 48, but not the number of participants, Boldt said.

There are several Relays for Life in Goodhue County and Minnesota, but she considers Red Wing's unique because of the Bay Point Park, the river traffic and bluffs. A highlight, of course, is the loop illuminated all night with luminaries.

"I'm fighting cancer again. My family wanted me to go home when it got late, but I didn't," Boldt said. "I felt so good to be down there."

The next generation is taking the places of those lost. Team names evolve too. Boldt's team is now Gramma's Gang, and Roger is gone.

"He died of cancer, of course." Boldt said. She paused and then added, "We work harder."

Mississippi Shuffle memories

I remember when they closed us down and evacuated due to a storm.

We all walked up to Larry's Broiler and ate soup until we could go back to the park.

If memory serves, they didn't charge for the soup. We talk often about that great soup. -- Gayle Siewert, Red Wing


My favorite memories of Mississippi Shuffle participation over the 25 years:

1. Mississippi Queen paddlewheeler coming by playing "Pretty Red Wing"

2. Fellowship with fellow walkers through the night -- exchanging stories of previous years' weather, monies raised, stories of others the disease has affected, talking about loved ones no longer with us.

3. Bragging about the Shuffle to my Illinois friends ... lovely hometown event, on the river, at a park, walking overnight and per capita one of the best Relays for Life in the country.

4. Personally raising over $35,000. Those that can, must!

-- Anne Fortin, St. Charles, Ill.


I don't have a favorite memory; I have an ever flowing stream of memories.

I was a cancer survivor when it started here in Red Wing. I worked at Vasa Children's Home, which had a team. I just found it so inspirational.

Then the year Ben Johnson was the honorary chairperson — he was just a young child — listening to his story I was inspired. I thought, I'm going to get a team of cancer survivors to walk next year. And that's how the Kancer Kickers started in 1993.

Word grew and by 1994, we had Kancer Kickers 1 and Kancer Kickers 2.

Really, the memorable experiences have been meeting all the great people who are working together for the same cause.

— Pamela Hallahan, Red Wing

Anne Jacobson

Anne Jacobson has been editor of the Republican Eagle since December 2003. 

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