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Joe Harrington

Relay for Life brings Kent State together against cancer

Freshman business major Justin Laubach places luminaries around the track behind the DeWeese Health Center Saturday afternoon at Relay For Life. Elizabeth Myers | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

The American Cancer Society predicts that 1,437,180 cases of cancer will be diagnosed this year. They also estimate that 565,650 people will die from cancer in 2008. That’s 1,500 Americans a day.

These are two major reasons why 82 organizations and 1,255 people participated in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life over the weekend at the Kent State track behind the DeWeese Health Center. Running in teams, the goal of the relay is to have at least one member on the track for 24 hours.

While the runners circled the track, the teams raffled off everything from food baskets to traffic lights, all in attempt to raise money to help fight cancer. This year the event raised $86,476.

“That’s huge,” said Rachel Kessler, event co-chair and junior managerial marketing major. “Akron this year did about $20,000. Although this is our sixth consecutive year, we’ve been going for that $100,000 goal, and next year will be our third year, and we’re going to do it.”

Kent firefighters and the Kent State women’s basketball team raised the most money over the weekend, while The Dive and the Delta Gamma sorority raised the most money on the Internet before the relay began.

Preparation for the relay started last August, as Kessler and team captains met to decide different ideas for the event.

“We had countless meetings with the committee, a committee of about 35 strong, that helped to put all this together,” Kessler said. “Myself and the other co-chair Liz (Sauer) could not have done this without their help.”

With the teams in place, runners started their 24-hour trek at 10 a.m. Saturday. Through morning rain showers, followed by a humid afternoon, the track was consistently full all the way till the end. Two participants, Daily Kent Stater photographer Dan Doherty and Ken Brown, Black Squirrel Radio sports director, walked the entire 24 hours of the relay, tallying up more than 50 miles of walking.

“Mentally, I felt great,” Brown said. “It was tougher than I thought it would be. Spiritually, I felt great because we accomplished our goal, but it was tough. It was one of the most physically grueling things I have ever done.”

While some participants didn’t quite have the endurance of Doherty and Brown, Melanie Spiroff, freshman speech pathology major, was on the track in the early hours yesterday morning.

“(It was) really hard, I went home for a couple hours, I’m not going to lie,” Spiroff said. “It was hard, but at the same time it was really moving to see all the luminaries out, it was a really nice experience.”

Luminaries that were sold that day, lined the track and provided light for the walkers as nighttime came. Various local singers, such as Jim Casto and David Ullman, added the soundtrack for the event, providing live music all night and into the morning.

” I really didn’t know what to expect, but I was really impressed in what I saw from a lot of people,” said Derek Marken, freshman justice studies major. “It was very motivating.”

The cure for cancer is a long process, and an all-day fundraiser like the Relay for Life may seem like an extremely small piece of the puzzle, but Kessler said it’s all helpful.

“It’s just an amazing event to come out and see everyone come together to fight this cause and beat it,” Kessler said.

Contact assistant sports editor Joe Harrington at [email protected].