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Fighting for life
Relay for Life raises $70,000 for cancer research
For cancer survivor Camille Bova, Quinnipiac’s seventh annual Relay for Life was more than just a fundraiser.
“I did Relay for Life before I was diagnosed with [stage three Hodgkin lymphoma],” Bova said. “It was still a huge event and I was happy to raise money, but it’s different after going through cancer. It makes me so much happier now to see so many people supporting a cause that I’ve been affected by.”
On April 11, Bova and more than 1,000 others attended this year’s “marathon-themed” Relay. Held at the TD Bank Sports Center on the York Hill campus, this 12-hour fundraiser aimed to raise money for research, honor those who have lost their lives to cancer and ultimately “fight back” against the disease.
During Relay, teams of students walked around a track from 6 p.m to 6 a.m. to symbolize the constant fight against cancer. There were different ceremonies to honor loved ones who experienced cancer, in addition to activities such as carnival games, an inflatable rock climbing wall and obstacle course, food trucks, Zumba, a drag contest called “Mr. Relay” and tie-dyeing.
More than 900 teams raised $70,000 for the American Cancer Society this year.
Junior Katie Winkle, one of the event’s two co-chairs, is a seven-year cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with leukemia in 2006.
“This was probably one of our best Relays yet,” said Winkle, who has participated in the fundraiser every year at Quinnipiac. “It’s so heartwarming and rewarding to see hundreds of people participate.
Winkle’s Alpha Delta Pi sisters and other friends created a team called Kate’s Krew to support Winkle at the event.
“For me, Relay for Life has been a way to ‘pay it forward’ and really give back to the community,” Winkle said. “As a cancer survivor, it really hits home. I was given a second chance and I want to fight back for a cure.”
Other students, like sophomore Devan Kingston, attended the event to support friends and honor loved ones who experienced cancer.
Kingston, whose grandmother survived kidney and ovarian cancer, attended Relay for Life with Alpha Phi Omega members. She said she was moved by the emotional Luminaria ceremony, where students silently walked around the track and placed glow sticks in decorated bags that honor loved ones who survived cancer or passed away from the disease.
“That feeling you get when you see people put lights in the bags…it’s very emotional,” Kingston said. “I think that’s something that everyone should experience. You really don’t realize how much cancer affects people.”
Freshman Rebecca Taylor, a three-time Relay participant, had similar thoughts.
“It’s truly an incredible experience and I highly recommend it for everyone,” Taylor said. “People clearly care about why they’re here. It’s not only giving back to your community, but it’s also a lot of fun; it’s a good way to make new friends and bond with old ones.”
Like Winkle, Bova was greatly supported by her friends during her journey through cancer. She spent her freshman year simultaneously undergoing chemotherapy, staying on top of schoolwork and participating in extracurricular activities.
“I didn’t want to let [cancer] affect school at all, so I worked hard,” Bova said.
She came to the university with three main goals: be a part of Q30 Television, join a sorority and make the dean’s list.
“I didn’t want to let having cancer affect any of those goals,” she said.
After earning a 3.7 GPA by the end of the year, her mother told her, “If you can do that when you’re in chemo, then imagine what you could do when you’re healthy.”
This piece of advice is something Bova still follows today.
“This year, if I start thinking ‘I don’t really feel like doing this’ or ‘I’m so stressed,’ I’ll think back to last year when I was doing the same amount of things on top of chemo and that’s a really good motivation,” Bova said.
Bova and Winkle both used their experiences with cancer to change their perspectives for the better and continue participating in Relay for Life.
“Cancer doesn’t sleep, neither should we,” Winkle said.
Bova advised Relay participants, in addition to individuals who are currently struggling with cancer or have an affected loved one, not to lose hope.
“Never give up,” she said. “It’s best to just stay motivated. Things are gonna happen in life to you or to people around you, and you can’t give into it. Never give up.”
The event’s location may be on the quad in the fall, Winkle said.
“It’s been awesome up at TD Bank and we’re so glad we got to use these facilities when we could,” Winkle said. “We’re hopefully going to move the event on the quad in the fall so it’s going to be outside and have more of a ‘community’ feel.”