Lights, Camera, Relay

May 25, 2010

relayforlifegroupA total of 50 teams helped to raise nearly $35,000 for cancer research at the Alliance Relay For Life April 4 and 5 at Peterson Field House.

This year's theme, "Lights, Camera, Relay - Take Action against Cancer" was well received by all the participants.

Established to celebrate survivorship, remember victims and raise money for future cancer advancements, Relay For Life provided a incredible feeling of community among participants this year.

Ryan Conatti and Brittany Akins, co-chairs for the event, were very pleased with the overall turnout.

For Conatti, Relay has a deeper meaning than all the events and activities. "I relay for Mom," he said.

Conatti, junior, lost his mom to cancer in 2000 and marks this event as a special memorial. His mom is his motivation for walking, and he has participated in her honor at nine Relays since her death.

"I lost my mom to cancer, and I don't want the world to lose any more," said Conatti. "It is because of her I walk. It is because of her I volunteer. I remember Teri Conatti, my mom."

Jeremy Evan and MUCawConatti said the best part of Relay is when other survivors share their story with him.

"It doesn't get much better than that," said Conatti.

Akins also related to Relay on a deeper level. She lost her aunt to cancer in 2000. Since her aunt's death, Akins has participated in eight Relays in her memory, three of them in Alliance.

The most moving part of the event for Akins was the Luminaria Ceremony.

"We get to remember everyone who passed away and everyone who is still fighting," said Akins. "People celebrate life much more after that."

Jenna Jacobs, senior, also shared a special bond with this year's Relay For Life. She served on the team for Alpha Phi Omega and for her, it symbolized the love that she shares for three of her closest family members.

"My reason to Relay was to celebrate my mom, my aunt and my grandma, all who have survived cancer," Jacobs said. "These three women have taught me what it means to live life and how to live it to the fullest. They are the strongest women I know."

It was a very powerful moment when Jacobs saw her mom take the track for the survivors' lap.

"[It] brought tears to my eyes," said Jacobs.

Jacobs, Conatti and Akins are not alone; many participants in this past weekend's Relay For Life were directly affected by cancer in some way.

Diane Thomas, assistant director of public affairs, shared her story of breast cancer survival as this year's featured speaker. Her speech was inspirational not only to those still fighting cancer, but for everyone. She stressed the importance of encouragement through the fighting process.

"I've kept every letter I've ever got, I've saved every e-mail that was ever sent, and I'll always remember every phone call that I ever received," said Thomas. "That's what got me through."

relayforlifekidsAccording to Conatti, the Alliance Relay For Life raised a total $34,560, just shy of the $45,000 goal set by the Relay planning committee. However, donations are being accepted until August 31, so the committee expects to reach that goal soon. To make donations, please contact Ryan Conatti or Brittany Akins, or the American Cancer Society representative, Carmie Novak at

Co-chairs Conatti and Akins thank faculty, staff, students and community members who contributed to this ongoing fight.

"Yes, we are fighting here in Alliance," said Akins, "but in reality, we are fighting for the world. The goal is to have a cancer-free world."

Katy Kiraly, senior Relay For Life team development committee chair, summed the whole event up in one sentence.

"Cancer doesn't sleep, so why should we?"

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