Cancer survivors and University students and faculty walk, run and jog for the cure to cancer, as well as support to cancer patients in the Relay For Life this Friday evening, April 20. The relay begins at 6 p.m. and lasts until 7 a.m. Saturday morning.
The Relay For Life began four years ago, as an endeavor to get University faculty and students to become more aware of a disease that has affected so many people.
"The issue of cancer is really important because it affects so many people and so many families," said Debra Park, administrative assistant at University Studies Abroad Consortium and a cancer survivor. "It's touched everyone in some way."
Park was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. She suffered through surgery and several months of chemo and radiation. Park prevailed over the disease and has been cancer free since April 2005. The amount of support the American Cancer Society has provided her was helpful in the midst of her recovery.
"They were really helpful," Park said. "Getting together with other women who were diagnosed with cancer and being in touch with someone who had a similar kind of cancer was very helpful."
Park began to participate in the Relay For Life last year. The bonding she experienced both with those in her office and other individuals who are personally affected by cancer influenced her to become involved annually.
"It was really a special experience for me as a survivor," Park said. "I had the chance to talk to people who have been through similar or worse ordeals."
This year's Relay For Life, in comparison to past years, will be inside at the Virginia Street Gym to avoid the erratic weather. Last year's event was outside and in the persistent rain.
"We had to mold the plans for this Friday's event for being inside, but that allows for some activities we couldn't have had," said Matt Mehlhaff, Relay For Life coordinator at the American Cancer Society.
Several activities are scheduled throughout the relay, to keep both participants on the track and off entertained. Along with several bands that will be playing is a Hypno Show and group contests such as a pie eating contest, a scavenger hunt, and the Miss-ter Relay Pageant, in which male members of each team go into the public and ask for donations. A lap in the Relay For Life will also be dedicated to cancer survivors.
"I was in the survival lap and I got cheered," Park said. "It was very inspiring to me."
The donations from the relay will be donated to the American Cancer Society to fund services for cancer patients, such as support groups or financial assistance, said Mehlhaff.
"The proceeds are not necessarily localized," Mehlhaff said. "The money can be used to help anyone across the country."
A portion of the money from the relay will also fund the Camp Sunrise program. The program sends local cancer survivors, from the ages of 8 to 18, to a week long camp in Arizona, according to Shane Phillips from the American Cancer Society.
"This camp gives these children an opportunity to hang out with others who have similar stories and experiences while hiking, fishing, horseback riding and many other great activities," Phillips said. "More importantly, this camp gives these kids a chance to just be a kid."
Phillips hopes to raise $30,000 but the several teams involved in the relay have only raised $14,000.
"The money raised through the relay helps prevent cancer, saves lives and diminishes suffering from the disease," Phillips said. "We hope that people realize that every dollar raised takes us one step closer to finding a cure."