CSUS relays for life

Relay for Life:Sac State alumna Danielle Ball waves American Cancer Society flags as she walks during the Sac State Relay for Life on Sunday morning.:Robert Linggi - State Hornet

Relay for Life:Sac State alumna Danielle Ball waves American Cancer Society flags as she walks during the Sac State Relay for Life on Sunday morning.:Robert Linggi – State Hornet

Brett Johnson

Kirollos Gendi was 9 years old when he was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that typically originates from a malignant tumor that forms inside of the bone.

“Because of my young naïvete, I really didn’t understand what having cancer meant at the time,” Gendi said. “I remember spending New Year’s Eve in intensive care because my blood count was so low, but even then the concept of death never really occurred to me.”

After a year of intense chemotherapy treatment and an operation to remove the cancerous portion of his tibia bone, Gendi overcame the cancer. Now a 20-year-old pre-med student at UC Davis, one of Gendi’s pursuits in life has been to alert people to the threat of cancer.

“Everyone knows that cancer is a disease that discriminates against no race, gender or creed,” Gendi said. “Few realize it can affect individuals from any age group, as well.”

One of the mediums through which that message can be spread is the national Relay For Life, an annual volunteer-run fundraising event that commemorates cancer survivors at more that 5,000 sites across the country. Of those locations, 385 are within California – primarily held at high schools and colleges.

Through the organization of Sacramento State’s chapter of Colleges Against Cancer, Sacramento State held its first Relay For Life Saturday and Sunday. Gendi delivered a speech during the opening ceremony of Sac State’s Relay For Life, sharing his cancer survivor story and congratulating students of the college for hosting the event.

“The relay is such a great way to raise awareness of something that has had an impact on the lives of so many people,” Gendi said. “I‘m overjoyed that Sac State is starting its own Relay For Life, and I’m even more happy to be a part of it.”

The 24-hour event involved teams rotating eight members who constantly walked a track throughout the event’s duration. Teams set up tents, allowing members to sleep when not in rotation. A “survivor walk” took place before the teams started their laps, where participants applauded as the cancer survivors who attended the event walked around the track.

There were 11 teams that participated in event, with Kappa Sigma (which was also awarded for being the top contributor) taking up three of those teams due to the large number of participants they brought. Some of other teams were Athletes Against Cancer, Alumnae Against Cancer, Balls and Dolls, Mary Kay and Chi Delta.

Due to a school policy against overnight events, the relay had to be held across the street from campus at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center. The small grassy area outside the temple was completely covered with stands and tents, including a large sun canopy supplied for the disc jockey, but the space was a sufficient fit for the teams, spectators and staff.

“I‘m so glad that my brothers (in Kappa Sigma) are able to participate in this,” said Wesley MacDonald, freshman English major. “It’s important for me, because cancer has had an effect on my life. My grandfather was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and my other grandfather passed away from lung cancer.”

The late-night “Luminaria Ceremony,” held at every Relay For Life, is a remembrance for those who have lost their lives to cancer. White bags filled with glow sticks were handed out for a small donations. The bags could be decorated with the names of the departed, and were meant to be carried around the track in honor of their battle with cancer.

Jamba Juice also catered at the event and promised 20 percent of its proceeds would go into the fundraising pot.

Kappa Sigma entertained participants with a station for “water pong,” a sober version of the popular “beer pong” game, in which ping pong balls are thrown across a long table into plastic cups in an attempt to force the opposing team to drink.

By the end of the event, a gross total of $6,845 had been achieved out of the Colleges Against Cancer’s goal of $15,000. Teams were asked to raise $100 per person prior to the event, which is where most of the event’s fundraising comes from.

The money raised during the event goes to the American Cancer Society, a nonprofit organization that seeks to eliminate cancer through researching possible cures, educational campaigns and preventive screening services.

“Even though we didn’t reach our goal this year, just having people out here that aren’t part of the staff is a success,” said event co-chair Bryan Metcalfe, junior journalism major. “A lot of the advertising for the event just came from word of mouth, because Colleges Against Cancer is not officially a recognized club at Sac State yet.”

Organizers of this year’s event have set their goals high for future occurrences of the Relay For Life at Sac State. Metcalfe said they aspire to match a similar turnout of UC Davis, which brought in 200 teams and $88,940 in its 2011 Relay For Life.

“We’re definitely planning on having this be an annual event,” Metcalfe said, “And there is no doubt in my mind that it will grow tremendously over time.”