May 012011
Authors: Jason Pohl

Some walked for a family member. Some walked for a friend. Some just walked above the tents, tarps and tie-dye for the sake of supporting a cause greater than any one person can fight alone.

Regardless of the reason, hundreds of CSU students, Fort Collins residents and their families packed the gym below the CSU Student Recreation Center’s one eighth-mile long track overnight Saturday to fight an all-too-common enemy: Cancer.

“This is a celebration of life and a celebration of people who have passed,” said Katie Whitbeck, a member of the Dean’s Student Leadership Council team within the College of Business. Whitbeck raised over $2,500 for her team, earning her the top spot among participants.

Saturday night was the fifth year CSU has hosted the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, and it has grown exponentially over the years. This year, the event was moved from Moby Arena to the Rec Center, and participants recognized that it was a much-needed change.

Matthew Hoppal, a business finance major on the Dean’s Student Leadership Council team agreed. “It’s a lot more exciting this year. There is a lot more team spirit, and I feel like we really reached out to the community.”

As of Sunday morning, 72 teams comprised of 671 members raised more than $55,000 to fight cancer and support the families and friends of those who have endured through one of life’s most devastating diseases.

Last year’s Relay for Life raised $46,000.

What made the atmosphere inside the crowded gym so incredible were the stories everyone was willing to tell.
Jennifer Weisser, a senior political science major and Relay for Life committee member remembered how difficult it was to hear that her father had been diagnosed with stage-four bladder cancer in 2003. He was given a 15 percent chance of survival.
“It was difficult on the whole family,” she said. “I was young, and it was tough.”

He was officially recognized as “cured” two years ago and now participates in as many cancer awareness events as possible.
“There is hope, and I’d really like to give other people hope,” Weisser said.

Stories like this filled the gym Saturday. Participating teams ranged from residence hall organizations, fraternities and sororities and groups of friends that just wanted to make a difference by supporting a cause on a Saturday night.

Dylan Gallacher, a senior sociology major, thinks the way the event has grown over the years has been great. He was walking in support of extended family members, including his aunt who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer that may have spread to her lungs.

“If she was here, she would walk the whole 12 hours,” he said. “That is just the kind of energetic person she is.”

Teams camped out on the gym floor in elaborately decorated tents and often-times flamboyant costumes to celebrate the life and birthdays of those who have passed as well as encourage the eradication of the disease so that many more can live to see their next birthday.

The event was anything but somber with activities including face painting, box car races and even balloon shaving contests, all of which simulate birthday parties often forgotten in the hectic world that overwhelms individuals when cancer is found.
There was only one rule: Each team had to have at least one member walking the track at all times, hence the title Relay for Life.

Students wanting to get involved next year can attend weekly committee meetings held throughout the year in the Lory Student Center room 234 Mondays at 8 p.m. Additional information about the national event that brings over 3.5 million individuals together can be found online at

Staff writer Jason Pohl can be reached at

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