Colleges Against Cancer: Keeping the fight strong

By Jessica Schurmann

A&E Editor

Many people have stories that hit close to home when they hear the word “cancer.” It seems incredible that such a small, simple word can describe such a life threatening disease.

Although this disease has caused destruction across the world, it has also brought people together who are fighting for a cure and an end to cancer’s reign.

Viterbo joined the ranks in the past decade when the university collaborated with UW-La Crosse to create a La Crosse Relay for Life event, a fundraiser in which participants form teams and gather donations and pledges to support them as they walk a track all night.

Coming this spring 2012 semester, Viterbo and UW-La Crosse will celebrate their annual Relay for Life from Friday, Feb. 24 to Saturday, Feb. 25 at the UW-La Crosse Recreation Center.

Preceding the Relay, a Relay Rally will be held as a way to get participants in the Relaying spirit. The Colleges Against Cancer event is located at Valhalla at UW-La Crosse, and takes place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Lumen sat down with Kaila Schoenberger, a senior biopsychology major at Viterbo who co-founded the Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) Viterbo chapter in the spring of 2011. CAC is a club that raises cancer awareness and promotes the Relay for Life event. Schoenberger is very excited about the event, which is meant to get people excited for the Relay before winter break.

“We have three speakers,” Schoenberger said. “Sara Sahli is from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, which is a group that advocates for cancer research and helped make Wisconsin smoke-free. Alyssa Gray, CAC Vice-President and top fundraiser last year, is going to talk about fundraising and how easy it can be. We will also have someone come in and share their personal story with cancer.”

The event will also include activities for those who attend, such as minute-to-win-it games, luminaria sales, and a collage project where people can share the reason why they are involved with Relay for Life.

Relay for Life teams can turn in their money raised so far at this event, and donations will be accepted. Schoenberger strongly encourages anyone to attend and participate, even if they don’t have a team.

This is the fourth year that Schoenberger has been involved in Relay for Life, and it all started when she came to Viterbo.

“When I was a freshman at Viterbo, I signed up to be a team captain because Relay For Life sounded like something fun I could do with my friends while fundraising for the American Cancer Society,” Schoenberger said. Since then she has served on the committee and raised awareness at Viterbo by becoming the Event Co-Chair and President of La Crosse Relay for Life and CAC.

Studying as a full time student as well as advocating for the American Cancer Society year-round keeps Schoenberger busy, but she holds Relay for Life very close to her heart.

“I have been extremely blessed that none of my close relatives or friends have passed away from cancer,” Schoenberger told Lumen. “My Granny is a breast cancer survivor and I am so proud of her for fighting and beating the cancer. Throughout my years at Viterbo and being involved in CAC, I have seen too many sad stories about family and friends. I relay for everyone, so that no one has to battle cancer.”

Joanna Scully, a junior biology major at Viterbo and cancer survivor, spoke at the Relay for Life event last February at the UW-La Crosse recreation center on behalf of other survivors like her. She said of the experience, “People relay from all different backgrounds and for all different reasons. The best part is getting to see everyone standing together, fighting for one cause.”

Currently, there are 20-30 members who are consistently involved in CAC on campus. Viterbo student Alyssa Gray helped start the Viterbo chapter with Schoenberger, and both are very impressed with the amount of involvement so far.

As participation and interest increases with the event, Schoenberger has many goals for the group to aim for. “Since we are such a new club, keeping members excited and raising cancer awareness is the main goal,” she said.

With a turn out of about six Viterbo Relay teams last year, Schoenberger is hoping for an increase up to twenty teams this year. For students who are interested in being involved but do not know where to get started, CAC meets every first and third Wednesday of the month at 5 p.m. in the Hawk’s Nest. Everyone is welcome to attend any of the meetings, regardless of experience of past involvement.

Students can also contact Schoenberger at kschoe01492@viterbo.edu, or caclacrossecolleges@gmail.com to get involved. The process to start a team is fairly simple for those who have a group that is interested in joining together.

Individuals are also highly encouraged to get involved, even if they do not have a team. There are many campus teams that still need members, and there are also numerous ways that students can help with the Relay for Life event.

Julie Schoenrock is the Team Mentor for Viterbo and can help individual students find a team to relay with.  She can be contacted at jschoe03952@viterbo.edu. Once students have a group together or a team to join, all they have to do is sign up for the relay at relayforlife.org/laxcolleges.

Fundraising can sometimes seem daunting to college students, who are already on a tight budget. Schoenberger suggests asking family and friends back home on the holidays to support Relay for Life. The American Cancer Society is a very well known and celebrated organization, so many people in the community are eager to help in any way they can.

“The best advice I can give is to have a good time while you are fundraising,” Schoenberger said. Some popular campus fundraisers include bake-sales and t-shirt sales. “We did an amazing job during breast cancer awareness month by selling t-shirts and pink ribbons as a fundraiser. We also had a day to wear pink.  Right now, we are working on ideas for the Great American Smoke-out.”

There are other ideas listed on the relay for life website, and the CAC meetings are also great places to brainstorm with other relayers and get helpful tips toward fundraising.

“We are all very excited about the Relay Rally and hope there are a lot of people to come see what we have planned,” Schoenberger added. “Spread the word.”

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