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Faculty, staff invited to take part in Relay for Life

by Colin Poitras - March 23, 2009


The UConn chapter of Colleges Against Cancer is inviting faculty, staff, and graduate students, as well as undergraduates, to take part in this year’s Relay for Life.

The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life is an overnight community celebration where individuals and teams camp out, barbecue, dance, and take turns walking around a track relay-style to raise funds while celebrating the lives of those who have had cancer, remembering those lost, and fighting back against the disease. At nightfall, participants light luminaria around the track in recognition of loved ones lost to the disease.

This year’s relay starts at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 17 in the Student Union quadrangle and ends at noon on Saturday, April 18. The survivors’ ceremony begins at 7 p.m. on Friday.

There is still time for teams and individuals to register for the relay. The fee is $10 for individuals and includes a T-shirt. Cancer survivors participate for free. More information can be found at Relayforlife.org/uconn

“Cancer affects everyone, and Relay for Life is an event where the entire campus can come together for one night to fight back against this disease so that one day, no one will have to hear the words ‘You have cancer’,” says Kathleen Solernou, a junior and one of the event’s organizers, who lost her grandfather to lung cancer when she was seven years old.

“Despite its size, UConn has a very close-knit campus and a big heart. Relay is our opportunity to show Connecticut and the rest of the nation just how great we can be.”

Last year, more than 800 people participated in the University’s annual Relay for Life campaign to raise money for cancer research.

One of those taking part in this year’s relay will be Keith Bellizzi, an assistant professor of human development and family studies, who was diagnosed with Stage 3 testicular and kidney cancer just shy of his 25th birthday.

After multiple surgeries, aggressive chemotherapy, and the removal of one kidney, Bellizzi survived, quit his business consulting job and devoted his career to cancer research. An avid bicyclist who has toured cross-country with Lance Armstrong to raise cancer awareness, Bellizzi lives near Storrs with his wife and three daughters.

“If we are to prevent and control the many diseases we call cancer, we need to employ a multi-faceted approach, including high quality research, policy changes, a vocal advocacy community, and empowering the general public,” Bellizzi says.

“The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life not only raises needed money for biomedical and behavioral research, but the event brings cancer awareness to the community.”

Freshman Kelly Foy will also be a participant. Foy was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) when she was seven. After two and a half years of chemotherapy, hospital stays, injections, and blood draws, she was declared in remission in October 1999.

The cancer returned a few years later. Only a bone marrow transplant provided by her five-year-old sister allowed her to finally leave the hospital on Thanksgiving Day.

Foy says she will never forget the image of her sister lying in a hospital bed with needles stuck in her back before the transplant. She regards her sister as her hero, and hopes to pursue a career as a child life specialist helping children and families in challenging circumstances.

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