Taking Steps Against Cancer

By Casey Thompson

For 24 hours this weekend people from all over the Pomona area
came together at Cal Poly with a single goal in mind: to eliminate

Relay for Life of Pomona was held in the University Quad on
Saturday, May 18, raising approximately $10,000 for the American
Cancer Society, a “nationwide community-based voluntary health
organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health
problem (…) through research, education, advocacy, and service,”
according to their mission statement.

The event featured 19 teams walking around the quad in shifts
for 24 hours to symbolize that “cancer never sleeps.”

Last year, the event was able to raise nearly $30,000. This
year’s goal was to raise at least this much; however, there was
trouble getting any sponsorship from local businesses.

Because of the numerous Relay for Life events hosted in southern
California, event organizers were only able to petition businesses
within Pomona for donations, none of which contributed money to the

Cal Poly hosted a Relay for Life for the second time. This
year’s event chair was Alexa Lowry, a third-year finance student
and president of the Cal Poly chapter of Colleges Against

The organization was started in 2001 as a way to keep Relay for
Life going all year round and now has chapters all over the nation.
Lowry founded the chapter earlier this year.

“Last year [Relay] was really successful, but a lot of people
didn’t know how to get involved afterwards,” Lowry said. That’s why
she decided to start this club: to raise funds, provide awareness,
advocate for government funding, and support survivors.

Lowry had the support of a volunteer staff in planning and
putting on this event. Susie Hassan, a third-year communication
studies student, and Ashley Allison, a third-year public relations
student, helped recruit teams for the event and put out press
releases to raise awareness.

The efforts of event organizers paid off with a large turnout
that included people from on and off campus. Some Cal Poly
participants included the CEIS Council, a collection of liberal
studies students, the CPP Honor Students, a coalition group
comprised of the academic fraternity Alpha Lambda Delta and the
Honors College.

Each team was charged with sponsoring an activity to raise
awareness and funds in the battle against cancer. These groups
spread the word about lymphoma and ovarian cancer,

“It’s a great cause,” said CPP Honor Students team captain
Raniel Dizon, a second-year finance, real estate and law

That seemed to be the overall sentiment of the day’s events.

“There’s not one person at all on campus that can say they don’t
know somebody who’s been effected by cancer,” said Lowry.

Several members of her family had cancer scares before the age
of 21, including Lowry. She thought it was important to inform
young people about the risk, especially of cancers that younger
people can get, such as skin cancer.

Many of the people in attendance were survivors of cancer.
During the opening ceremonies, several survivors were presented
with medals by Pomona Valley Hospital radiation oncologist Dr. Y.S.
Ram Rao. He expressed his gratitude to the American Cancer Society
and its mission.

“ACS does a great job [battling cancer] (…) all over the
world,” he said during the ceremony. He went on to say that thanks
to advances in research and technology over the years, cancer can
now be treated more like a chronic disease than a terminal

Shane Hart, a complex coordinator at The University Village and
survivor of colon cancer, stressed the importance of Relay for

“It needs to be in every community,” said Hart.

He also said that last year they exceeded their goal in terms of
funds raised and that this year they were expecting even greater

Funds were raised through pledges, food sales, and other
donations. Each team had their own way of raising funds. The CEIS
Council, for instance, sold “halos of hope” made from purple and
white flowers, the Relay for Life colors.

The Luminaria ceremony, held later that night, sold bags for $10
a piece. The bags, which contained candles, were then set up around
the quad and lit in remembrance of cancer victims.

Melanie Serrano, a 17-year-old ovarian cancer survivor, was one
of many people form the local community that participated in Relay
for life. Serrano was diagnosed when she was 11 and has been cancer
free for about five years now. Her water polo coach organized the
team, Los Altos Girls Water Polo, and asked her to captain it.

“I’ve been through it, so it’s something really important to
me,” Serrano said.

She said she planned on staying for the entire 24-hour event.
This was her first Relay for Life.

These events are held in communities all over the country. One
team, Cancer Busters, said this was their second Relay for Life.
They attended one in El Monte earlier this year. The team was
started as a way for the Garey High School Key Club to fulfill its
community service commitments.

“It’s a great opportunity since anyone can attend and (…) it’s
24 hours long,” said team member Michael Le, a junior at Garey.

Relay for Life got its start in the mid-’80s when Dr. Gordy
Klatt, a colorectal surgeon from Tacoma, Wash., ran for 24 hours
straight. He was able to raise $27,000 through his efforts. In
1986, he helped organize the first team relay, the City of Destiny
Classic 24-hour Run Against Cancer, raising a total of $33,000.
Relay for Life has been operating in cities throughout the country
ever since.

Casey Thompson can be reached by e-mail at arts@thepolypost.com
or by phone at (909) 869-3744.

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Eric T. Cho/The Poly Post

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