GV Raises over $80,000 at Relay for Life

GVL / Robert Mathews
2013 Relay for Life

Robert Mathews

GVL / Robert Mathews 2013 Relay for Life

Kara Haight

Grand Valley State University’s eleventh annual Relay for Life raised over $80,000 in the fight to find a cure for cancer over the weekend.

Festivities started Friday with a video presentation from Colleges Against Cancer, the student organization in charge of preparing for the events and leading the games, entertainment and education for the night. The video showed members of CAC and other GVSU students sharing milestones and accomplishments of the American Cancer Society, which CAC regularly partners with.

The ACS is celebrating 100 years in business.

During the opening ceremonies, speakers shared stories of their personal connections to the disease, including relatives and friends who fought and lost their battles.

Brad Rutledge, director of the ACS Great Lakes Division, said he was excited to see the Relayers in action.

“At my job, I get to sit behind a desk, planning for events like this,” Rutledge said. “But it’s another thing to actually come out and see these programs in action, in all that they can do.”

Savanna Rayne, the ACS staff partner for GVSU, said that, in Michigan, ACS is second only to the government in research funding, and events like Relay help keep it that way.

“By being here, you are changing and saving lives,” Rayne said. “Could be a parent, a friend; could be mine or yours.”

While many memories of family members and friends affected by cancer were shared, some in the audience had even closer encounters with the disease. GVSU student Rachael Allen told the audience at Relay the impact cancer has had on her own life.

Allen said at age 13, after a surgery to treat a misdiagnosis of mononucleosis, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma stage II. Allen started chemotherapy a month after her diagnosis and experienced various medical complications during her treatments. After multiple chemo sessions, she felt hopeful, but soon learned that her cancer had returned.

“(After it returned) I lost confidence,” Allen said. “I didn’t go to school, and I was depressed.”

But she continued to fight cancer for a second time, telling the Relay audience that she has been cancer free for the past six years and was cured of Hodgkin’s lymphoma five years ago.

Allen shared that through her battle, she learned many lessons about herself and her appreciation for life.

“If I could go back and rewind my life without cancer I wouldn’t,” Allen said. “I learned to be thankful. I never knew how selfish I was until cancer.”

Events including the survivor walk, the luminaria ceremony and the Mr. Relay contest continued throughout the night, and the donations grand total of $80,937 was announced at the 6 a.m. closing ceremonies.
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