Middlebury Athletes Take Part in "Relay For Life"

April 19, 2005

4/19/05 - It doesn't take a person long to think of someone afflicted by cancer. A family member, friend, or neighbor probably has battled the disease at some point. Cancer is the ultimate opponent, it never rests, sleeps or takes a day off. In order to beat the disease people must work even harder because their lives depend on it. On Friday, April 29th the Middlebury College community will work an 18-hour shift to raise money to beat cancer in the American Cancer Society's 20th annual Relay for Life.

Starting at 3:00 p.m., a record 69 teams will participate in the relay. According to last year's statistics provided by Middlebury College and the American Cancer Society, Middlebury's inaugural event broke a national record for first-time Relays for Life when it exceeded a fundraising goal of $25,000, raising $83,000 with just 48 teams participating. As of April 19th, Middlebury's relay teams have raised over $67,000. Similar to last year's event, the relay will take place just below the football stadium on the athletic practice fields. All teams will have a temporary home within a mock tent city near the relay. 

This is a campus wide event, with several varsity teams comprising the record number of participants. Representative from the football, swimming, field hockey and softball teams will take part in the event. Besides these athletic teams, other athletic department members including administrative associate Carolyn LaRose are getting involved as the captain of her own team. "I have had at least 12 family members either die from or be treated and survive many different forms of cancer. One of those deaths was as recent as two weeks ago-a team member from our relay squad," said LaRose.

The universal feeling of each team taking part of the relay is that everyone can put a face to the disease. Sophomore softball player Maura Casey only has to look to her father for inspiration. "My father is battling with cancer so it really hits home. I love him so much and I have a hard time dealing with it, but working towards 'Relay' makes me feel like my efforts are being put to use. I personally can not make his sickness go away but 'Relay' allows me to do something instead of just sitting around being sad," revealed Casey.

Middlebury College sophomore football player Scott Secor didn't have to look beyond his own team to find inspiration to create his team. "Cancer knows no boundaries. It has hit my family, my friends, and even my teammates here at Middlebury," said the Michigan native. Secor's teammate Tom Cleaver developed Leukemia four years ago at the start of the football season. Cleaver, a captain, wide receiver and National Football Foundation scholar athlete broke several receiving records during his playing career, graduated this past winter term with a degree in Political Science. "I thought a relay team of football players would be a great tribute to Tom and to so many other people who continue to battle cancer", said Secor.

The Relay for Life is a natural fit for an athletic team wishing to contribute to the local and college community. Teammates will be walking with the constant support of each other for 24 hours. They can rely on their colleagues to cheer them on during the relay the same way they would during an athletic contest.

Senior field hockey player Ashley Pullen's team is together for a second year. "Aside from the support for the American Cancer Society, the event itself is a really meaningful experience. Overall, the feeling of community at the event is amazing; it's been a great team project for us. There is so much enthusiasm in all the participants. It was powerful to have our team together at the 'Luminaria Ceremony' in the evening.  It was very moving," recalled Pullen.

Organizers of the relay describe a "Luminaria" as a bag filled with sand, and a small candle that makes it glow. Each one bears the name of a person who has battled cancer. Right before the ceremony, all the candles lit. As they burn into the night, they light the way, a path of hope, for the walkers.

Middlebury College Director of Athletics Russ Reilly is proud of his athletic department, the students and the college community in general for getting involved in such a worthy endeavor. "My mother recently passed away.  The athletic department staff made a generous donation to the 'Relay' in her name. I am grateful to be associated with such devoted and caring individuals. Middlebury people, by that I mean students, faculty, staff and friends of the college are always finding ways to help people in need. Many of these people do it quietly and without fanfare," said Reilly.

The 69 teams willing to give their time on April 29th and the countless others who have made donations or other forms of support to the Relay For Life fund will be remembered for working together to beat cancer. Everyone will know deep in their hearts why they will be working so hard to do it.

To learn more about the Relay For Life event at Middlebury College, click here.