WHITE BEAR LAKE — He’s just 13 and he’s leading a team to fight cancer and talking to church groups about malaria.
Alex Fluegel established a Relay For Life team in honor of a classmate who has brain cancer. The White Bear Lake youth also helps his great uncle in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America crusade to prevent and treat malaria.
Along with fencing camp and other fun this summer, Alex is busy organizing Mike’s Warriors — an all-youth team in the local American Cancer Society fundraiser July 29-30.
The soon-to-be eighth-grader at Sunrise Park Middle School and at least seven friends (a few more were tentative) are collecting funds and will take turns running or walking the South Campus track all night during the Relay. Their team is named in honor of a Sunrise eighth grader fighting a brain tumor.
Alex recruited team members secretly to surprise his friend, whose tumor is 95 percent curable.They used to be “just school friends” but since forming a Relay team, their friendship has grown closer.
“Doing (Relay) for a friend makes it more fun and more special,” Alex said.
Leading the team includes responsibilities such as attending monthly team captain planning meetings, rounding up tents in which to camp, and writing and sending dozens of letters seeking support (Alex even paid for the stamps himself). Most of preparations are done without adult assistance.
“I can’t wait for (Relay) night, but I could use more time to get ready,” Alex said. He added this advice for other Relayers: “Start as early as possible and keep at it.”
While he’s readying for the Relay, Alex is taking a break from his other volunteer venture: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Malaria Campaign. His great uncle Chuck Fluegel is a pastor in the East-Central Synod of Wisconsin and a leader of the initiative. He is currently on a four-month mission trip in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Alex gives presentations or helps his uncle give presentations about the campaign at churches across the region. The teen talks about malaria prevention and can rattle off statistics such as how one in five children in the Congo die before age 5.
Alex said learning about diseases, poverty and other challenges African children face has made him more appreciative of his own blessings.
“We have a lot compared to them,” he said.
Alex’s service was incited by The Kingdom Assignment at Redeemer Lutheran Church in January 2010. After he and 24 others volunteered for an unknown assignment, they each were handed $100 and instructed to use it to better God’s kingdom. Alex decided to give the money, plus $20 of his own, to the malaria initiative.
Alex also wrote donation request letters and organized a silent auction at the church. He said he’s helped raise several thousand dollars for prevention and treatment initiatives.
In May 2010, Alex and Redeemer were recognized at the Kingdom Assignment International Well Done Awards in California.
During the school year, Alex also is a busy student. He’s a member of the National Junior Honor Society, Student Council, math club and ballroom dance club. He also plays oboe in band and is president of the computer club.
Alex and his family also are members of the Superior Hiking Trail Association and help with trail maintenance and improvements. It was at an association event where he met his idol: Andrew Skurka. The adventurer and speaker has hiked, skied and rafted across more than 30,000 miles of wilderness.
“He has a lot of freedom,” Alex said. “He gets to experience all these amazing things.”
The Relay For Life of White Bear Lake Area is July 29-30 at White Bear Lake Area High School-South Campus. For more information about forming or joining a team, donating, volunteering or participating in the Survivor’s Lap or Luminaria Ceremony, visit wbrelay.org, contact Chairman Andy Rausch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 612-559-6041, or stop by a planning meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, July 18 or 25 at Redeemer Lutheran Church.
For more information about and to donate to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Malaria Campaign, visit elca.org.