Students Organize College-sponsored Relay for Life

Cancer is a life-threatening disease that is responsible for one out of every four deaths in the United States each year. Despite an annual decrease in the cancer mortality rate, many still fall victim to it – last year alone, nearly 1,479,350 Americans were diagnosed with cancer.

This terrible disease, however,  also brings people together in the name of fighting it.  On March 27, 2010, from 6 p.m. to midnight, the College is sponsoring a Relay for Life event to help raise awareness and funds for cancer research. The event not only brings together those who have been affected by cancer, but also sparks strong hope for a cure.

The Relay for Life kick-off event, which was held on Jan. 26 at 9 p.m. in Goodpaster Hall, brought together St. Mary’s Relay for Life team captains and cancer survivors who are participating in the Relay for Life walk. During the kick-off event, two cancer patients and one cancer caretaker shared their stories to an attentive, emotional audience.

Frances Titus, a faculty member at St. Mary’s who has worked as a cancer caretaker, hopes to “find a cure…to bring awareness to the college community.” She believes that the Relay for Life event “is a good way for faculty, staff, and students to do something for a common cause.”

Senior Erika Kenny, the committee chair of the event, explained that despite St. Mary’s participation, students and faculty are not required to reach a goal by the American Cancer Society. However, those participating in the event “ultimately want to reach a goal of $15,000.” Funds are raised through donations made by individuals who donate to Relay for Life. One specific way is by donating to receive a luminary, which will displayed at the Relay for Life walk on March 27 with the names of family members or friends who have been affected by cancer. The walk is a way to remember and celebrate the fight against cancer, and luminaries can be purchased not only to remember a loved one, but also to celebrate a loved one’s successful battle.

Lauren Schlather, a sophomore at St. Mary’s and a cancer survivor, shared her story at the Relay for Life kick-off event. She said that her battle with cancer “has made [her] more thankful for everything.” Lauren is a Relay for Life team captain, and states that she hopes to “give back more because [she] realize[s] that people have been through similar or worse, and it helps to have someone to reach out to.” It is Lauren’s fifth year being a team captain. She believes that being on the Relay for Life committee is “a great way to get awareness for [cancer].” Lauren’s hope is to find a cure.

Luminaries can be purchased online at www.relayforlife.org/smcm, and they can be dedicated in memory or in honor of a loved one. The suggested donation is $10.

The American Cancer Society, according to the group’s website, “is the nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.” The organization provides funding for cancer research through several community-participating events, such as the Relay for Life Event, which is the main volunteer-driven fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) is the organization that runs Relay for Life events on college campuses across the nation.

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