KSU Relay for Life raises thousands for cancer research

Megan Wilkinson

KentWired Video

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Battling cancer isn’t an easy task. Barb Farrell, junior intervention specialist major, knows firsthand what it’s like to endure the deadly disease.

Farrell’s mother said she learned her daughter had leukemia in August 1997, when Farrell was 7 years old. For three years, Farrell went through hours of chemotherapy to kill the cancer. She said she lost all of her hair in the process.

“I got a wig after shaving my head, but I never wore it,” she said. “I believed if my friends were true friends, they wouldn’t care that I was bald.”

Farrell said she had a good support system as a child with leukemia, and her doctor helped her overcome her illness. By February 2000, Farrell won her battle with cancer.

Farrell was the honorary cancer survivor who spoke at the Kent State 2011 Relay for Life.

“I felt honored and privileged that I could speak to others about my experience,” Farrell said. “I want to encourage people who are still going through cancer.”

Kent State students celebrated in a birthday party to fight cancer Saturday and Sunday at Relay for Life. More than 70 teams of mostly students raised about $60,500 for the American Cancer Society.

Ayla Layman, graduate student and one of three event chairs, said the goal was to raise $98,000, but she said she is proud teams raised as much as they did in the poor weather conditions.

“The weather normally challenges us each year,” Layman said. “We were surprised at how many people did stay during the night. We had a few tents fly away last night, but it was cool to see a few teams stay out in the really cold wind.”

“I’m hoping someday there will no longer be a need for Relay for Life,”

Teams celebrated in many different ways. Students sold food or bracelets or held chariot races to raise money. The Kappa Sigma team decided to throw individuals in jail for dollar donations throughout the night.

“People gave us a dollar to throw their friends in our pretend jail,” said Alex Wigoda, freshman air traffic control major. “We meant no harm by it.”

Around 9 p.m., students walked silently around the track in honor of those who have died of cancer. Usually, candles are lit in paper Luminaria bags for this portion of Relay for Life, but Christine Getto, junior speech pathology major and one of the three heads of the Relay for Life committee, said it was too dangerous to light candles because of the rain and wind.

Tara Jackson, financial aid coordinator with the Student Financial Aid Office and Relay for Life faculty leader, said she likes this part of the event.

“The Luminaria ceremony gives us a chance to remember those who passed away from cancer,” she said. “It’s nice because it’s supporting all different kinds of cancer, too.”

Layman said she was relieved with how this year’s event went.

“It inspires you to see people walking around the track all night no matter what,” she said. “It gives me hope that no matter what, we can fight this disease.”

Farrell said she hopes eventually there will be a cure for all cancers.

“I’m hoping someday there will no longer be a need for Relay for Life,” she said. “However for now, patients undergoing treatment should stay positive and look on the bright side of things because even in the worst situation, it helps to stay optimistic.”

Contact Megan Wilkinson at [email protected].