Celebrating survivors: Relay for Life raises money for American Cancer Society

Fairy tales and dreams.

That is the theme for this year’s UW-Whitewater Relay for Life.

The relay, hosted by Colleges Against Cancer, is a 12-hour event where teams walk and participate in games and activities to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

This year, the relay will take place from 5 p.m. May 4 until 5 a.m. May 5 at the Williams Center fieldhouse.

Senior Bailey Hearley, co-president of the UW-Whitewater chapter of Colleges Against Cancer, said that Colleges Against Cancer partners with the American Cancer Society to plan Relay for Life.

“Relay for Life is the American Cancer Society’s biggest fundraiser for raising money to find a cure for cancer,” Hearley said. “Because we are in conjunction with the American Cancer Society, it is a natural fit to have a Relay for Life event on campus.”

Hearley’s Colleges Against Cancer co-president, senior Cassidy Schmidt, hopes the organization can surpass the $25,000 they raised last year.

“Our goal is to always raise more money than the year before, so I think this year if we could reach $27,000 to $30,000, that would be a huge success for us,” Schmidt said.

Many people participate in Relay for Life for different reasons. Freshman Derrick Hoverson, juniors Samantha Pratt, Ashley Meyer and Megan Burczyk, and freshman Mariah Shaver share their stories.


The Survivors

For freshman Derrick Hoverson, involvement in Relay for Life goes beyond his involvement in Colleges Against Cancer.

This year, he will attend the event as the honorary survivor. The honorary survivor speaks at the beginning of the event to inspire participants and remind them of why they are there.

“I will give a speech just telling my story of how I dealt with cancer and sharing inspiration,” Hoverson said.

In April 2009, Hoverson was diagnosed with brain cancer. A large tumor in his brain pushed into his spinal cord and caused severe headaches.

Although it wasn’t always easy, he said the support of the people around him helped a lot. This June, he will be cancer-free for three years.

Hoverson’s involvement in Relay for Life extends back 10 years. He initially got involved in the event to support a family member who had cancer.

“My aunt Kathy was diagnosed with cancer, and she ended up dying, and I was always really close with her, so I really wanted to get involved with it,” he said. “And once I was diagnosed, I really, really wanted to get involved with it.”

Hoverson said people should get involved with the event, because it helps others and is just a great thing to do.

“If you go, it just makes you feel great,” he said. “You’re helping people. You’re volunteering. You’re working towards a cure for cancer, because you know someone who has cancer, and you would really want them to survive.”


The Sisters

Juniors Megan Burczyk, Samantha Pratt and Ashley Meyer have been impacted by cancer. Their team, This I Believe, is one of several Relay for Life teams created by members of Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority.

“Cancer is something that affects a lot of people in everyone’s lives,” Pratt said. “Recently, two of our sisters in Tri Sigma have been battling and overcoming cancer as well, so it hits us really close to home, and it’s a cause that we all believe in. That’s why we’re all signing up for it.”

Pratt is the Sigma Sigma Sigma vice president and Burczyk is the president. Meyer is one of the Sigma Sigma Sigma sisters who has recently been diagnosed with cancer.

“Last summer, I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and I’ve been in remission since January,” Meyer said. “Cancer affects everyone, and you don’t really realize everywhere it is until you know someone who’s affected with it.”

One of the things the team members are most looking forward to about the event is showing support for their sisters and other loved ones who have had cancer.

“It’s just a common purpose that we’re all coming together for, and we’re all supporting each other. It’s a long 12 hours, but we battle it together,” Burczyk said.


The Friends

In the last two years, freshman Mariah Shaver has known five people who have been diagnosed with cancer. These loved ones are just one reason she started the team Once Upon a Cure for this year’s Relay for Life.

“Three of my good friends from high school’s moms all got breast cancer within the same year,” Shaver said. “My cousin’s mom got breast cancer. Everyone knows someone who has had cancer. Everywhere you look, you see survivors and people who lost loved ones.”

One reason Shaver would encourage others to participate is simply because it helps a good cause.

“It doesn’t take much to help out and give your time for a day or the little amount of time it takes to get a donation from someone. Helping is helping. They’ll take what they can get,” she said.