Relay for Life event working toward a cancer-free world

April 23, 2012

April Wefler
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Half of all men and one-third of all women in the U.S. will develop cancer during their lifetimes.

Relay for Life, started in Tacoma, Wash. by Gordy Klatt in the mid-1980s, is working to raise money for the American Cancer Society to ensure that one day, there will be a cancer-free world.

Nic Hostetter, a graduate student in the non-profit management program and the event chair for UCCS’ sixth annual Relay for Life event, said that this year was one of their bigger years, with about 300 people and 25 teams in attendance.

Hostetter’s aunt is a cancer survivor and his grandma passed away from breast cancer. When he got to college, he learned about Relay for Life and immediately became involved. “We want to make sure the cause is known and why we do this,” said Hostetter.

At the beginning of the night, cancer survivors Janie Bertagnolli and Judy Poulson of Parker, Colo. spoke to the attendees about their experiences with cancer. Additionally, the team and people that raised the most funds were announced, and eight cancer survivors were the first to walk around the track.

“You’re relaying for us survivors, but I feel like we relay for the future generations,” said Bertagnolli. She explained that Relay for Life is 12 hours long because, “night is the darkest time when you learn you have cancer; the light gives you hope.”

Added Poulson, “Cancer never sleeps. When you hear the words ‘you have cancer,’ it strikes terror into your heart.” Poulson first became involved with Relay for Life 14 years ago when she was helping take care of her mother, a cancer patient.

In later years, when Poulson learned she, too, had cancer, she went from not wanting her kids to go through what she had with her mother to not wanting her grandkids to.

Throughout the night, team members sold smoothies, hot chocolate, cotton candy, T-shirts, candles, glow necklaces and various other items. Luminarias were also sold to remember loved ones that had passed away, had survived or were still fighting.

The team that raised the most funds was Angels, consisting of two people: juniors Megan Near and Mark Wilkerson. Near and Wilkerson raised $2,500 and Near was one of two people to raise the most funds as an individual, at $1,500.

“I’m racing for my old saxophone teacher,” said Wilkerson. He said that it was his first time participating in Relay for Life and that he had an outpouring of support from his family and his teacher’s family and friends.

Near mentioned that many people in her family have had cancer, and she reached out to them to raise money for the Relay. “My uncle died; my grandpa survived. We thought we had only days with him, but he keeps going for years.”

“It’s a healthy process for people to open up and share their experiences at the event,” he added.

In addition to the relay being a great cause, many people also said it was a lot of fun. “Meeting new people, hearing their stories, hanging out with people you wouldn’t associate with, the challenge to stay up all night,” said Andrea Haddad, junior and Relay for Life committee member.

By the end of the night, the total amount raised for cancer research was just over $18,000. However, fundraising doesn’t end until Aug. 15. If you would like to donate to the cause, visit