Spring Valley Moonlighters – Team Melissa at the 2013 Relay for Life. In front is Loretta Ascheman. In the next row are Lane Paulson, Grace (Lane's friend), Melissa Davis, John Davis and Braeden Davis. In back, are dog Abner, Chris Paulson, Chad Ascheman, Rick Ascheman, Craig Paulson and Barb Potthoff.
Spring Valley Moonlighters – Team Melissa at the 2013 Relay for Life. In front is Loretta Ascheman. In the next row are Lane Paulson, Grace (Lane's friend), Melissa Davis, John Davis and Braeden Davis. In back, are dog Abner, Chris Paulson, Chad Ascheman, Rick Ascheman, Craig Paulson and Barb Potthoff.
They're moonlighting again for Melissa.

Melissa Davis was diagnosed in March 2013 with cancer and had surgery a week later. Her family quickly rallied its support, forming Spring Valley Moonlighters - Team Melissa for the annual Relay for Life event in Fillmore County.

The family has experience with cancer and with Relay for Life as Davis' mother, Loretta Ascheman, is also a cancer survivor who has been active in the annual event in Fillmore County.

"It's ironic," said Ascheman, "that she was diagnosed when she was, because it was exactly a week away in March when I was diagnosed 31 years ago."

She admitted that hearing that Davis, who went to her oncologist's appointment alone, was going to undergo treatment, was upsetting simply because the family had dealt with cancer often - Loretta's mother-in-law and brother-in-law also had fought well.

"She had stage three breast cancer, and she had a double mastectomy," said Ascheman. "The scary part was that her lymph nodes were involved. Doing the Relay is very special to us - I'm 31 years out since March, and I'm not supposed to be here, but at least Melissa had someone to look up to. She has a 3-year-old son, Braeden, and she kept thinking that she might not be around for him, but I told her that there's still a lot of hope even though it was stage three."

That hope comes, in part, in the strides that the Ascheman-Davis-Paulson clan takes around the track at the Relay for Life each year. The Spring Valley Moonlighters-Team Melissa is comprised "mostly of our family." That includes Loretta and her husband, Rick, along with their children: Melissa Davis, her husband, John, their son Braeden; Chris Paulson, her husband, Craig, and their daughter Lane; and Chad Ascheman and his son, Trevor. Also, making up the team are a few of Loretta's very close friends, including Rose VanKirk and Barb Potthoff, and Lane's friends.

Loretta pointed out that Lane has essentially grown up on the Relay tracks and that the event has meaning for all of the family's members.

"She (Lane) brings her friends, and they stay up all night, they play bingo...it's been fun for her. I even used to buy an extra Relay T-shirt and cut out the logo to applique onto a smaller shirt so she'd have her own," said Ascheman.

"I look forward to it because of our involvement - Rick's mom had cancer that started as melanoma, and his brother who was two years older had cancer, too," she said. "I light at least one of my own luminaries on the track. I do look forward to that part.

"I think with my kids being involved with it, they don't miss a year because they were close to their grandma Ascheman and their uncle Duane, and they have friends in the Cities who've been diagnosed, so they always buy luminaries for them. Nowadays, cancer is so prevalent, so it's important. I think of just the walking we all do, taking turns walking if we choose to do an hour or a half hour. When you see all the luminaries after they're lit...every time you walk among them, you pick up another name of someone you'd forgotten had cancer, or you see friends' luminaries and know where they're at."

It's the ritual that heals the family, a gathering that offers them the chance to support their mother, their sister, remember their bygone relatives, and to celebrate the possibilities of the future, particularly Melissa's this year and last. They come together to create a team basket for the Relay's auction, join in the "Balloons to Heaven" balloon release and stay up all night, doing what's best for the family - being a family.

"We were a close family before this, but after Melissa's diagnosis, we're even closer," Ascheman concluded.