SRU community urged to walk, run, join hands for a cure
April 1, 2016
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Cancer. The disease affects every family, including the Slippery Rock University family. That is one of the reasons why students, some of whom have cancer survivors at home and in their residence halls, will lead a Disney-themed Relay For Life fundraiser April 9 in Morrow Field House.
The relay, open to students, faculty, staff and community residents, hopes to raise $35,000 for cancer research.
But there is a bigger agenda. Students said they want hope to shine brightest when the sun goes down on their event. Their goal is to celebrate life and offer encouragement to cancer-afflicted families to keep calm and carry on.
"Relay For Life is a celebration. It gives hope, celebrates life and remembers those we couldn't save. Cancer may be a killer, but it is not going to win," said Alexis De Santi, a biology and criminology major from Erie who will participate. She lost her grandfather and "Nana" to cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, each year, more than 4 million people in more than 20 countries raise much-needed funds and awareness to save lives from cancer through Relay For Life events. Each organized fundraising walk encourages teams to solicit sponsors for members that take turns walking around a track. Each team must have a member on the track at all times.
The Relay For Life at SRU will take place from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Students will offer games such as "Jail Break" and dress in Disney costumes, such as "Ana" from "Frozen." At the event, all cancer survivors present will walk the first lap around the track, celebrating their victory over cancer. A luminary ceremony, during which candles are lit inside of personalized bags placed around the track, as a tribute to those affected by cancer, will take place at 9 p.m.
"As someone who has gone through treatments for cancer, I so appreciate all of the efforts of the students, staff and faculty who are involved with Relay for Life," said Nora Ambrosio, professor of dance. "I know I am one of the lucky ones, but there are many others struggling every day with this horrible disease. Programs such as Relay for Life give people strength and hope."
This year alone, doctors will diagnose up to 1.6 million new cases of cancer and nearly 600,000 people will die in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.
"It is a terrible disease that destroys so many lives," De Santi said. "I watched one of the most hilarious and happiest person I ever met turn into a man who never smiled because of cancer."
"Everyone is affected by cancer even if it is not a direct connection," she said. "Once you experience something like cancer, I cannot imagine not wanting to fight back against it. Relay is our fight. Cancer has killed millions of people, but it can be stopped. Each dollar we raise will help to save someone's life."
"Relay For Life allows individuals to come together and remember loved ones who have passed, honor survivors/caregivers and celebrate life," said Jessica Limbacher, a public health major from Cranberry and recruitment director for Colleges Against Cancer at SRU. "Both of my parents are cancer survivors. Everyone knows someone who has had cancer or who has, unfortunately, lost his or her fight. It's important we raise awareness about this cause and fight to raise money for cancer research."
Limbacher, who said her mother survived melanoma cancer, emphasized that Relay for Life at SRU is about everyone who has struggled with cancer ¬- survivors, caregivers, family and friends.
"I really love Relay For Life and the positivity it spreads through communities," she said. "Research has made great strides in finding new and more effective treatments. We need to keep funding and fighting."
The registration fee is $10. She said supporters could create their own account on www.relayforlifeorg/pasru. From there, they can send emails to family and friends and post to social media.
Another way to honor those who affected by cancer is through a virtual survivor program. Participants can honor a loved one who is too sick to attend the relay by creating a poster or large photo printout and carrying it as they walk.
Jennifer Lake, a public health major from Newark, Ohio, said Relay For Life has become a passion in her life.
"Recently, cancer has taken one of my family members," she said. "Also a close family friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. I want there to be a future where no one has to hear the words, 'you have cancer.'"
While acknowledging that sometimes it's hard to stay positive, especially when cancer strikes close to home, Lake said it's important to celebrate survivors and push for a cure.
"I want to show the people that are battling cancer that they are not fighting alone," she said. "We are fighting right alongside of them and will not give up until there is a cure." She said she would be there for all 12 hours of the event.
Karen Perry, SRU assistant director of campus recreation, said she is serving as a survivor ambassador.
"Please participate, in any way, in the Relay For Life at SRU," said Perry. "We all have fiends, family and coworkers who have been affected by cancer."
She said the SRU community has had six to eight cancer deaths over the past nine years and currently has 10-15 employees going through treatment or are survivors.
Those who want to participate in Relay For Life may pre-register at www.relayforlife.org/pasru. Walkers can show up the day of the event.
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