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Megan Card, Published June 14 2012

With father on mind, an 85-mile journey awaits

By FARGO – When their father was first diagnosed with brain cancer, the five Weller daughters from Gwinner were by his side, even when that meant saying goodbye.

Thirteen years after J.B. Weller’s death, his daughters are still honoring his memory by returning home in an 85-mile journey for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

Hitting the road at 6 a.m. today, nine members of “Team J.B. Weller” are running in five mile shifts from West Fargo to Gwinner to raise money and awareness for the American Cancer Society. The run ultimately ends in Gwinner, where the Sargent County Relay for Life event will be held from noon to midnight near St. Vincent’s Catholic Church.

Colin Clarke, husband to the third daughter, Paula, is the team captain. He first suggested creating a team for the 2011 Hood to Coast Relay in Oregon, a 200-mile trek. Clarke said all of the daughters had been involved with running in some way over the years, and it is something they have done together as a family.

“As we heard more about Hood to Coast’s connection with the American Cancer Society, it became a real natural tie-in for our family to be involved,” Clarke said. “And that’s how Team J.B. Weller got started.”

They raised more than $6,000 for the American Cancer Society during Hood to Coast. Clarke said though running can be a lonely sport, relay running has created a greater emotional connection and bond within the family.

“Running 200 miles in less than 30 hours is physically and emotionally challenging,” Clarke said. “All 12 of the runners were in the same environment, going through all the same challenges. Our time in Oregon maybe pulled our family closer together than it has ever been.”

The team is running in a modified manner to coincide with Sargent County’s Relay for Life, which will feature teams taking turns walking or running around the light-lined track and bike path as well as food and games for participants.

Team J.B. Weller will end their 14-hour relay with Karla Waloch, the eldest Weller daughter, running the last leg of the race into the event at about 6 p.m.

Maria Weller, the second daughter, said running in memory of her father – who she said was a community builder – is a great reflection of the self-worth he instilled in his children.

“He was always the one who could say the best things with the least amount of words,” she said.

Maria Weller also said her family’s involvement with Relay for Life helps highlight what the American Cancer Society is doing and raise funds for their cause.

As she baby-sits grandkids while her family runs in memory of her husband, Barbara Weller said one thing about J.B. Weller is certain.

“He was just a really good dad, and those girls – they just remember that,” Barbara said.

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