Minnesota Vipers

Cruisin' for Cancer

Posted by: MN VOA on 03/01/2019

Imagine being 2-½ years-old and having a rare form of leukemia (AML M7) and enduring four rounds of chemotherapy—each round requiring thirty-five days in the hospital with two weeks at home between rounds. That’s what little Misha has faced so far in 2018.

When VOA Minnesota region members Keith and Judy Anderson invited the rest of the club to participate in the Cruise for Cancer to help support Misha, they jumped on board. The Minnesota region was acutely aware of the toll cancer takes, having lost two of their members, Archie Lessard and Joan Gresser, to cancer last year.



Every year, the Cruise for Cancer charity event is held in Duluth, Minnesota to raise money for a local family dealing with pediatric cancer. It began in 1989 as memorial cruise for the event founder’s family member. It began as just a simple cruise, but as years progressed, money was raised and the proceeds went to a local family affected by cancer.

In 2001, after another heartbreaking loss to cancer, the family put the cruise on hold. In 2013, Rachel Netzel, the organizer’s daughter, was 16 years-old and remembered how much good they did, so she pushed the family to restart the event. Rachel recalls, “The cruise always fell around my birthday when I was growing up. It was so much a part of my life when I was little. When I got older, I remembered how much good the cruise had done. Since we had more help now, I thought, ‘Why not bring the cruise back?’ Thanks to our sponsors and participants, it is a really great event and we are proud to say that every penny we raise goes to a local family.” The cruise raises over $20,000 each year for a local family who has fallen through the cracks—they make too much to receive assistance but still feel the intense financial strain of a cancer diagnosis.



VOA club member Judy Anderson explains the Viper involvement, “Keith and I do the Cruise for Cancer each year for several reasons. Keith's childhood friend and family are the organizers and they have lost loved ones to cancer, just as we and too many others have. It feels good to use our passion for Vipers to help someone traveling that cancer journey. Bringing more club members and cars helps increase the visibility of the event and raise more dollars to help a young person in need."



Although knowing all this information might have cast a somber tone on the event, nothing could have been further from the truth! The event was held as a celebration of Misha, with the sincere hopes of a cure in her future.

The way the cruise works is that area businesses sponsor the event, and all participating vehicles pay a small registration fee. Each participant receives a map with over fifty locations of sponsors. Participants then visit the sponsor locations and receive a stamp to prove they were there, with a large group stop for lunch. At the end of the day, the map is turned in for an event t-shirt. The gang from Minnesota VOA had a great day cruising the streets of Duluth and the surrounding communities during the sold-out event, with over 400 other cars participating. The 2018 Cruise for Cancer proudly raised $24,159 for Misha and her family.

Misha’s father, Joe, was overwhelmed by the event, “It was very heartwarming to see all these people who we’ve never met before doing all of this on our behalf. I’d never heard of the Cruise for Cancer, but when I went to work and told co-workers about it, they all knew about it and thought it was great that we were chosen. Another cool thing about the day was that every year there are different recipients, so we saw a lot of people that we knew from the hospital who had benefited from the event in previous years. It was great to see those families, who are also dealing with cancer, in a more fun and happier environment.”

Minnesota VOA member Mike Brett summed up our feelings perfectly, “Cancer has become so prevalent in today's world. It seems as though everyone has been touched through a family member, neighbor, good friend, or dear VOA member. And while fighting the disease is devastating for all involved, it is particularly ugly when it involves the life of a child. When the Cruise for Cancer sponsors announced the recipient of this year's efforts was a 2-½ year-old girl who is in the battle of her life, I was more than excited to participate in hopes of bringing some joy to her and her family, if only for a brief moment.”

VOA club member Mike Gresser, who lost his wife to cancer last year, says, “Joan loved the people of the Viper club. We had so many enjoyable adventures together with the club. She would be happy to see everyone participating in such a great event and I know that she was smiling down on us the day of the Cruise for Cancer.”