Many are touched by cancer one way or another, and with the American Cancer Society reporting an estimate of 1,658,370 new cases in 2015 alone, it’s no surprise. However, many students, particularly participants in UT’s Relay for Life on April 18, are working towards creating more positive results.
At this time last year, the University of Tampa’s event raised $13,623. So far this year, $21,184 has been raised. With over a month left to go, the number continues to grow each day.
This quick fundraising is due to the support of the 62 teams and more than 500 participants. One student and Relay for Life committee team member has risen above the rest, raising a whopping $2,520. Danielle Fabian, a sophomore biology pre-medical major, started by asking her family, friends of the family and even her parents’ colleagues for donations. She watched online as her donation page continued to receive traffic.
“I wanted to get involved on campus, so I was part of the committee and then my grandma got diagnosed with cancer in October of my freshman year so it became a priority in my family,” Fabian said. “It’s good to know that I’m making a difference and I’m helping contribute to something that affects so many people, because [cancer] really does affect everyone in some way. Being a part of the committee means that we have to not only put on the event, but make sure we get participants and people to fundraise. “
Fabian’s personal donation page has surpassed the fundraising of the top non-committee team by almost $400. The next highest fundraiser after Fabian is the event leader, Leah Kedzuf. Kedzuf, a junior entrepreneurship major, has raised $1,000.
“I wanted to be able to help support such an amazing cause and several of my family members have had or have cancer so I wanted to give back in any way I could,” Kedzuf said. “Then this year I was asked to be the event lead and was so honored and then unfortunately my mom was diagnosed with cancer and so my fight became even more meaningful and personal.”
The Relay for Life committee gathered clubs and organizations on campus, from the UT Fishing Club to the Spanish Dance Team, to raise money and support in the fight against cancer.
Proceeds from Relay for Life go to the American Cancer Society, which funds research and a number of services and programs. One such service is Hope Lodge, a facility that gives cancer patients a free place to stay when they travel away from home for treatments and have no where to stay or way to pay.
With Relay for Life, the fundraising doesn’t stop. The actual event will take place starting at 1 p.m. on April 18 in Pepin Stadium and the theme is “Around the World.” Each team will set up a booth that reflects the specific country that the team has chosen, and they will continue to raise money by selling goods or services like food or face-painting. While some teammates are working the booths, others will take laps along the track.
“The good parts are seeing all of the things the teams come up with as fundraisers and getting to hang out with different people and working with people on the committee. The luminaria ceremony is really cool,” Fabian said. “All the lights go dark in the stadium and around the stadium and we light all of the bags and we sit in silence to reflect on all the people who have fought cancer, are fighting, lost their battle, won their battle. It’s a really powerful moment because it truly speaks to what the disease is doing to everyone and how we have an impact.”
John Trendowski, a junior biology major and chemistry minor, joined the Relay for Life committee during his freshman year as a way to get more involved on campus. In his three years on the committee, he has learned the importance of fundraising.
“The hardest thing about fundraising is staying motivated. Sometimes after reaching a goal that you set for yourself to fundraise or sometimes you run out of people to ask to for donations you can become less motivated to still fundraise,” Trendowski said. “[You need to] stay persistent in your fundraising efforts.”
In the past, Trendowski worked in the survivor and caregiver committee, however this year, he says that he doesn’t have a specific job description. Rather, he chooses to help out in any ways he can, from planning to tabling.
“The committee has been working really hard to put on the whole event,” Fabian said. “I’m just excited to see it come together and see all the teams and have them get excited for relay and raise money for a really good cause and have a really good time.”
Bianca Lopez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org