Engines on for Relay for Life 2020

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Photo provided by UCTV.

Derek Hamilton, Staff Writer

Relay for Life is an all-night walk to promote cancer awareness and shed light on those who have battled cancer or have lost their fight with cancer. The Relay for Life group at Utica College held its kick-off event on Nov. 13 where the student body voted for this year’s Relay for Life theme. The winning theme was Dr. Seuss.

  “I am super excited about this theme because of the creative aspect,” said Elizabeth Gabel, president of Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) at UC. “College students have a lot of stress so it will be a fun night to remind everyone of their childhood.” 

It is often a personal event for many in the UC community, as cancer reaches many lives one way or another.

Assistant Director for Leadership Development and advisor for CAC Bethany VanBenschoten is connected with Relay for Life in a personal way.

 “After the 2018 relay, my husband was rushed to the emergency room with a brain hemorrhage which we later found out was because of malignant high-grade glioma (a cancerous brain tumor) near his cerebellum,” VanBenschoten said. “This experience brought home what all Relay for Life does for those battling their illnesses.”

 Gabel lost her uncle to lung cancer during her junior year of high school. 

“It was so difficult to watch the man who read me bedtime stories, skipped rocks with me, and brought so much happiness to my life suffer,” Gabel said. “I wanted to raise money for him and other families who were going through similar circumstances so I signed up for my highschool’s Relay for Life then joined CAC to help plan at Utica College.”

The donations raised by Relay for Life help families such as VanBenschoten’s with travel expenses that many do not consider when thinking about those who are battling cancer. 

VanBenschoten said some organizations helped provide for her family in their difficult time of healing. Today her husband is cancer-free.

 “The American Cancer Society (ACS) helped us find a place to stay while getting treatment in Pennsylvania and helped with transportation to and from the hospital,” VanBenschoten said. “We still use the resources from ACS every time we travel to Pennsylvania for his check-ups. The ACS and CAC have a special place in my heart- that is why I’ve become the CAC advisor and that’s why I will always be involved with Relay.”

According to the National Cancer Institution, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, followed by lung cancer and prostate cancer. Breast cancer treatment through chemotherapy can most often last three to six months. Funds such as these are an invaluable tool for those in these circumstances as well as research into how to treat various forms of cancer. 

More events will be held leading up to the main relay to raise awareness, donations and support from other organizations. 

Last year, UC’s Wellness Adventure Education program hosted an event with the CAC called “Climbing for a Cure” that included a ropes course in the gymnasium. CAC wishes to do more events like this leading up to the relay and during the main event.


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