Article Written By:  Andrea Whitney| Senior Accounting Specialist| Mercantile Bank of Michigan

A century ago, a small group of physicians and lay people in New York City came together to launch a fight against cancer — a disease that, at the time, almost always ended in death. That grass roots effort eventually became the American Cancer Society, which officially marks its 100th birthday this year. Thanks to the many efforts of those people and countless others since 1913, there have been tremendous advances in research, advocacy, education and support.

Despite these accomplishments, there is much more work to be done before we have a world without cancer. Enter the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life- their signature and largest fundraiser. It is an organized, overnight community walk where teams of people camp out around a track. Members of each team take turns walking around to signify a unified effort. It’s an opportunity to Celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer, Remember those lost and Fight Back against a disease that has taken too much!

In 2002, a group of Mercantile Bank employees decided to coordinate a team to be involved in the Ada Michigan event. My beloved Grandma LaVonne had recently been diagnosed with cancer after just 2 months prior a mammogram came up negative. I was angry and so jumped at the opportunity to be involved. I have been participating in these events around various communities ever since. I have even chaired an event for 5 years and have learned so much from other volunteers and their amazing stories. Relay for Life has given me the opportunity to turn my anger and sadness into positive energy and help others to fight back!

The Mercantile Bank team has had amazingly strong support from Executive management and employees every year since the first event in 2002. We have had teams at the Wyoming, Holland, Sparta, and East Lansing events-raising over $400,000 over the past 11 years! This year the committee has decided to start a team at the Downtown Grand Rapids event, taking place at Ah-Nab-Awan Park on June 14 @1pm – June 15@1pm. We have already raised over $22,000 and expect that to grow within the next week!

As employees of Mercantile Bank, we will continue to raise money in an effort to eradicate cancer! We urge others to get involved in any way they can and make a world with more birthdays!