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‘Family Strides’ taking big steps for Relay for Life

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AYER — Relay for Life offers a chance to support the American Cancer Society (ACS), and a number of local teens are making the most of it.

One example is the “Family Strides” team, which is co-captained by 13-year-old Nicole Messcher, of Ayer, and 14-year-old Ashleigh Scharmer, of Groton.

Though they’re young, the teens are adept fund-raisers and have collected far more than the $100 asked of each participant.

Scharmer has collected $781 to date, while Messcher has pulled in $702. Overall, the 12-person-team has raised $4,867. The donations will support cancer research, advocacy, education and patient services through the ACS.

Asked about the secret of her success, Scharmer said it’s a matter of motivation.

“I love my team members,” she said. “It’s really fun to work hard and raise a lot of money. It’s a great cause.”

Last year, Scharmer collected over $1,000 and led all of the youths at the Relay, an accomplishment her mother, Dawn, attributed to year-round cookie sales and bottle drives.

That approach isn’t unique, said Messcher, who cited that as the reason for the team’s success.

“Most of the kids on our team do year-round fund-raising because they’re really committed,” she said.

The work is in anticipation of the actual relay, which was described as an 18-hour festival of fund-raising and fun held at the Ayer school complex. The overnight event runs from June 22 at 6 p.m. to June 23 at noon.

The relay in Ayer is one of 200 being held across New England this summer.

The events are run entirely by volunteers, and both youths have parents involved. The elder Scharmer is the entertainment director and has sought out a number of attractions targeted at small children, teens and adults. She said the list includes a Fun Fair, local rock bands, and dancing and talent acts to keep things lively.

Messcher’s mother, Amy, is responsible for recruiting new teams for the event. So far, things look promising, she said, because some 34 relay teams have signed on this year as opposed to 23 last year. There’s room for more though, and she said the youth movement could be a growing trend.

“We’re trying to reach more into the high schools and national honor societies,” she said. “I think kids want to be involved, they just need the guidance Kids can do amazing things.”

One case-in-point is 13-year-old team rookie Stephanie Reeves, who has raised $954 and counting. She credited those figures to strong support from friends and family.

Reeves cited reasons similar to those listed by Messcher and Scharmer for getting involved — All three have lost loved ones to cancer and see fighting the disease as the right thing to do.

While Reeves has never been to the relay, she said she’s looking forward to it.

“It’s just such a good cause,” she said. “I think it will be very exciting.”

It’s not too late to get involved, said the elder Messcher. She extended an open invitation to the region to show up and check out the relay.

“We just want everyone to know they’re welcome to come,” she said. “There are opportunities for people to donate at the relay, if they want to.”

For information call Amy Messcher at (978) 772-2726.

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