All-star spreads the word through tried-and-true methods


By Charlotte Caldwell - [email protected]



Dressed as Dorothy, Mary Stahlman, left, and dressed as Scarecrow, Judy Johnson, both of Sidney, sell cookies at the Sidney First United Methodist Church tent at the Shelby County Relay for Life at the Shelby County Fairgrounds on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019.

Dressed as Dorothy, Mary Stahlman, left, and dressed as Scarecrow, Judy Johnson, both of Sidney, sell cookies at the Sidney First United Methodist Church tent at the Shelby County Relay for Life at the Shelby County Fairgrounds on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019.


Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

SIDNEY – The Shelby County Relay for Life is just a few days away, and Mary Stahlman, a retired Sidney teacher who taught third- and-fourth grade for 29 years, has played a monumental role in the event since it started in Shelby County.

“I think I missed one year when I had some other surgery,” Stahlman said. “When the Relay started, I hadn’t had cancer yet, and it wasn’t until after the second year being in the Relay that I got cancer. But I’ve been active every year other than that one year where I couldn’t go.”

Stahlman had breast cancer in 2001 for nine months, and her diagnosis was hard for her to accept at first. She said chemotherapy posed another challenge.

“You didn’t feel good, and food didn’t have much taste, so it was hard to eat. You couldn’t concentrate, like to read a book or something was really hard,” Stahlman said.

Going through the cancer journey was made easier with the help of her faith in God and her fellow members at the Sidney First United Methodist Church and Relay for Life. She also resonated with the saying “Fully Rely on God” (FROG), and because of this, she would wear frog brooches to remind her and educate others about the saying.

“It helped me to see that all these other people, a lot of them have gone through cancer,” Stahlman said when asked about the importance of Relay. “Sometimes we had cancer support groups and when you hear of how other people have gone through it, you get ideas from them of how you can make it through, and my church family were a huge help too because some of them had cancer and some would call and talk to me or visit with me and tell what helped them.”

The Sidney First United Methodist Church has also participated in the Shelby County Relay since the beginning, and this year they are the third team out of 13 with the most money raised at $5,038. Stahlman is the team leader for the church and is also the top participant for the whole event, singlehandedly raising $3,440.

While some Relay participants receive donations on the phone or in person, Stahlman composes handwritten letters detailing her story and Relay’s mission.

“I send out letters to people. I did 60 some I think this year, and I had done even more than that some years to collect money. And I kind of have my list where I know who will donate and who doesn’t, and we’ve gotten a good response that way,” Stahlman said.

Stahlman’s consistency through the years has made the community expectant of her letters, which in turn reminds them of the Relay event.

“I was kind of late getting my letter out this year, and at church just a couple weeks ago, this one younger man that contributes said ‘are you gonna send your letter out this year?’ A lot of them just kind of expect to get it,” Stahlman said.

The passion and commitment that Stahlman feels for Relay and cancer survivors emanates from just a short conversation about the event, which is bolstered by her own cancer journey.

“Once you have had cancer, you have a real understanding and compassion for others going through cancer, and whether you know them or not personally, I think you can reach out and touch other people,” Stahlman said.

Dressed as Dorothy, Mary Stahlman, left, and dressed as Scarecrow, Judy Johnson, both of Sidney, sell cookies at the Sidney First United Methodist Church tent at the Shelby County Relay for Life at the Shelby County Fairgrounds on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019.
https://www.sidneydailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/47/2022/08/web1_SDN080619RelayPage-1.jpgDressed as Dorothy, Mary Stahlman, left, and dressed as Scarecrow, Judy Johnson, both of Sidney, sell cookies at the Sidney First United Methodist Church tent at the Shelby County Relay for Life at the Shelby County Fairgrounds on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019. Luke Gronneberg | Sidney Daily News

By Charlotte Caldwell

[email protected]

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.