Hope shines through

Jessica Sprowl

Students walk to show support for cancer survivors

Participants walk a silent lap Saturday night in memory of those who lost the battle of cancer. The twenty-four hour event was Kent State’s third time participating in Relay for Life.

Credit: Beth Rankin

The word “hope” was spelled out in luminaries on the bleachers to the outdoor track by Small Group from Saturday morning until yesterday morning, and people walked around the track to support cancer survivors — and the memories of those killed by the disease.

The cause hit close to home for Mike Drake, former football coach and Honorary Cancer Survivor chair.

“We have an unbelievable amount of luminaries (lighted paper bags with names on them) lighted along the track tonight in memory of those who have passed away or those who are survivors of cancer,” said Lauren Mareno, a Relay for Life campus chair.

This was the third Relay for Life event held on campus, and there were more than 60 teams participating this year, Mareno said.

“We broke all of our records this year and had over 35 survivors show up for the survivors’ lap,” Mareno said.

Participants earned $62,000 for the American Cancer Society — $10,000 more than last year, said Andrea Bellas, income development specialist for the American Cancer Society.

“I am amazed at how willing the student body at Kent (State) is at partaking in this event,” Bellas said.

Seven bands played throughout the night, including DJ Scrilla, to keep participants awake and motivated.

“There were also a lot of fun competitions throughout the event for groups to participate in,” said Christine Alfredson, entertainment chair.

Awards this year were:

– Best team theme — The Point

– Most raised — Wack Attack

– Best overall group — SERMA

– Top individual for online fund raising — Jessica Cahoon

– Most raised online group — Wack Attack

“This is a really good cause and it helps a lot of people,” Rachel Straub, sophomore advertising major, said.

“It was so wonderful. It was more than I could have ever imagined,” said Cahoon, a Relay for Life chair. “Efforts put in from everyone were phenomenal.”

This year’s Relay for Life event became more than just a way to help for freshman Abby Drake.

Two and a half years ago, 48-year-old Mike Drake, Abby’s father and former Kent State football coach, was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer.

“I awoke in the middle of the night in February 2003, with a really bad stomachache, and it only got worse,” Mike Drake said.

He went to Akron General Hospital where doctors found swollen lymph nodes in his stomach.

He then began chemotherapy treatment at Akron City Hospital.

In the summer of 2003, Drake’s cancer came back, and he was referred to the Cleveland Clinic, and in January 2004, he underwent a stem-cell transplant.

In April 2004, doctors then removed a plum-size cyst from Drake’s stomach and removed his spleen, gallbladder and part of his pancreas.

During this year’s spring break, his cancer came back again and he has restarted his chemotherapy treatments.

“I am lucky to have such a great family,” Drake said. “I have been with my wife since we were 16-years-old, and we have been married almost 23 years. She has been a tremendous support.”

Drake has three children, Abby, a soccer player for Kent State; Hannah, a freshman in high school; and Michael, who is in seventh grade.

“Kent State has been pretty fantastic to me and my family. I don’t think people realize how far a smile goes to a person fighting a disease,” Drake said. “It’s something that just happens, I’m just so fortunate to have such a great support staff.

“We really have a great group of people at Kent (State); they truly have made it bearable for me.”

Always having her dad there to push her and her siblings, Abby said she knows her father will get through this.

“His being at home is hard, but he doesn’t quit, his whole life he has had to make things for himself,” Abby said. “I love my dad.”

“Isaac Perkins and Mike Drake are two of the most wonderful and beautiful individuals I have ever met,” Cahoon said. “They are so caring, so brave and so strong. Both are so inspirational.”

Contact social services reporter Jessica Sprowl at [email protected].