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Students, faculty relay for fight against cancer

Katie Phernetton, Life Writer
March 27, 2013
Filed under Life

A flicker of light shines through a small white bag with a name written on it. Beside it, another. Soon hundreds of bags, each with a light and a different name, illuminate the night. A silence falls upon the celebration as people walk around them with faces filled with hope.

The names on the bags are those of cancer survivors, people still fighting the disease and loved ones who have lost the battle.

After a year of planning, UW-Green Bay Colleges Against Cancer will be hosting its first Relay For Life April 19 at the Lambeau Cottage on the UWGB campus.

Relay For Life is the main fundraiser of the American Cancer Society. It began in 1985 when a doctor in Tacoma, Wash., walked for 24 hours around a track and raised $27,000 to help the American Cancer Society.  Since then, Relay for Life has grown into a worldwide event that has raised more than $4 billion to fight cancer so far.

“Relay for Life is a chance for all students and faculty, as well as their families, to celebrate the lives touched by cancer, remember the lives lost to battles and to fight back by encouraging cancer research,” said Lindsay Tice, junior nursing major and UWGB Colleges Against Cancer president.

The night-long event is made up of teams who raise money and take turns walking the track. The event at UWGB will be 12 hours long and include food, games and entertainment. Participants do not have to be present the entire event to participate.

The first lap of the event is for cancer survivors, honoring their battle and celebrating their victory.

“This is usually a tear jerker for everyone at the event,” Tice said. “It gives survivors the opportunity to celebrate their fight against cancer and gives everyone time to give them recognition for the strength they had to overcome this incredibly difficult battle.”

Kyleigh Lesjak, sophomore nursing major, is a cancer survivor of nine years. This is her first time participating in Relay For Life, but she said she can already feel how important this event is.

“Knowing that they do so much to help those who don’t have cancer yet, those still with cancer and those who are now survivors makes me feel important,” Lesjak said. “It’s almost as if I as a survivor can help others and make people aware through my story.”

After dark is the Luminaria Ceremony, a silent ceremony in honor of those who have been affected by cancer. Participants can dedicate a luminaria bag and personalize it with a name, photo, message or drawing in honor of someone who has been impacted by cancer. The bags surround the track, lighting the night.

“For many people, it brings back a lot of memories and good stories to share with people at Relay that are going through the same thing you are and know exactly how you feel,” Tice said.

Lesjak said the approaching event has stirred a variety of emotions within her.

“It makes me feel good that I can go out and fight for those in need and tell stories of those that didn’t complete their journeys,” Lesjak said. “Since it comes so close to my heart, it makes me feel truly blessed that I have made it and have had so much support and love behind me to make it through.”

Lesjak believes this event is also important because of how global cancer is.

“These diseases affect the whole world,” Lesjak said. “If we can get together, have fun and raise money doing that, we may find a cure or new medicine.”

Tice also has a personal connection to cancer. Her mother was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer. She said this fundraiser is important to all students, since many people have been touched by cancer in some way.

“Cancer doesn’t pick a specific gender, race or age to affect,” Tice said. “Cancer can come into the life of anyone without warning whatsoever. When we all work together, the sky is the limit, and it’s a beautiful thing to have so many people care about something that affects the life of someone that they may never know.”

Students can sign up for the event at relayforlife.org/uwgb. The relay will take place April 19 from noon until midnight at the Lambeau Cottage. Students can make their own team or join an existing one.

“As college kids I know our lives are hectic,” Lesjak said. “We go to school, work and study our heads off, but if we can make a small difference in this world or save someone’s life, then that feeling is simply amazing.”

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