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"Battle of the Batons" Symphony Concert Raises Cancer Awareness

February 16, 2007

South Dakota community leaders, all of whom have ties to cancer, come together to conduct the South Dakota Symphony this weekend at the annual "Battle of the Batons" in Sioux Falls, an event to raise funds for the American Cancer Society.

Mike Huether, executive vice president of Premier Bankcard, is one of ten guest conductors. He says the good news is that cancer deaths in South Dakota have dropped four percent in recent years. However, the disease still affects many families and friends, including his own. Huether's father was a smoker who died from lung cancer.

"The message is loud and clear -- at some point in time, cancer is going to nail you. It's either going to touch you personally, in terms of being afflicted with this disease, but there's an even greater chance that someone you love dearly is going to be touched by cancer. In my case, it has been my dad, and a number of other family members and great friends."

Huether says his goal is to help people quit smoking and prevent others from being exposed to secondhand smoke.

"It's a very, very volatile issue, but it's one that's not going to go away. Ultimately, I think anything we can do to help support people in their efforts to either quit smoking, or at least not smoke around others, is a great thing."

Huether is convinced that South Dakota residents have come to realize the importance of addressing cancer-related issues.

"The incredible health care costs, the death, the destruction, the secondhand smoke, all that. It's something I think South Dakotans know need to be addressed, and I think they're probably disappointed that it hasn't been addressed more fully."

Huether and his fellow guest conductors see this 4th Annual Battle of the Batons as a unique way to use music as a healing force, gathering people from around the state to raise cancer awareness. The symphony performs Saturday at 6:00 PM at the Washington Pavillion.

David Law/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - SD