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Look out for Relay for Life this Friday

The VSU Relay for Life organization will be hosting the “Lights, Camera, Action for a Cure” fundraising event this Friday April 23 at 7 p..m. Relay for Life is sponsored by the American Cancer Society, which is geared towards fighting, preventing, and promoting awareness of cancer. Relay for Life is an important event for anyone who is a cancer survivor or knows people who are dealing with cancer.
Two students for whom the event is particularly important are Jansen Balisi, third-year political science major, and Chelsey DeJong, fourth-year English and philosophy major.
Balisi is the chair for the Relay for Life organization on VSU campus and DeJong is the fundraising committee chair and T-shirt committee co-chair. Both students entered into Relay for Life for very personal reasons.
“At first I never had a lot of experience with cancer,” DeJong says. “My grandfather had it, but it didn’t really affect me when I was young. But when I saw what Sigma Tau Delta was doing for cancer awareness, I just had to get in there. It wasn’t until a while back when my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer that I really got even more involved. With Relay for Life, I realized that cancer really affects the people we care about; being involved with Relay gives me a sense of family—it’s not just something good to do. It really makes you realize that this all is personal.”
“About our age, we feel invincible,” says Balisi. “We feel like we can do anything, so it’s really important to promote cancer awareness now. My grandfather who lived in the Philippines was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2006. While he may have been the farthest relative from me [geographically], he was, emotionally, my closest relative. He got better over time until last year when he got really sick again; he passed away in June. I didn’t realize it then, but now we need to have this family connection to fight for our loved ones. With the purple on my clothing and Relay in my eyes, I know now—we’re family.”
The Relay for Life organization on campus wasn’t officially an organization until two years ago. When Ashley Braswell, the ACS representative, came to VSU to promote cancer awareness, Balisi felt motivated to encourage the growth of an on-campus Relay student organization.
“At first we only had four chairs,” Balisi says. “But now that number had grown to 18 chairs with a lot of different committees.”
Along with the properly formed organization came a need for funds—not just for equipment and other things necessary for the organization, but also for fundraising for the ACS. Relay for Life is a non-profit organization, so they have to rely on donations. However, while this may seem daunting, many businesses, such as Bruster’s, Blazer’s Tavern, and Chik-Fil-A, have risen to the occasion magnificently by donating generous portions of their profits.
“Last year we raised about $38,000 with 27 teams,” says Balisi. “But this year, with 47 teams, our goal is $40,000.”
With an expected increase in donation money, where do the 47 teams necessary come from? According to DeJong, quite a few Greek organizations intend to participate, along with different teams from other student organi zations.
“Sigma Tau Delta is going to participate, along with the College Democrats and the College Republicans,” says DeJong. “Relay is a good way to bring campus together. Normally with the Democrats and Republicans, there would be a lot of fighting, but with this kind of event, everyone is working together.”
The teams aren’t the only ones doing the grunt work to generate money.
“We’ve had to do a lot of stuff like bake sales and selling T-shirts, which is more of Chelsey’s department,” says Balisi.
“With the T-shirts, we’ve had to come up with a lot of different designs,” says DeJong. “One of them has ‘Win the Fight’—with this shirt, we know that a lot of survivors don’t want to say they’re through because they might jinx it, but they are really fighters, and for them, the fight isn’t going to end, and we’re not giving up. Another shirt we came up with just says ‘Team Relay’—with that, we want people to be a part of our team and help us work against cancer.”
The money wasn’t the only problem that needed to be taken care of. With 18 different chairs and different subcommittees, there were numerous schedule conflicts.
“We’ve had to set up three Facebook groups just for Relay,” says Balisi. “There were also many little details that needed to be taken care of, but we managed to get everything organized.”
After “Lights, Camera, Action for a Cure,” the actual Relay will take place next weekend at the Valdosta Middle School Track. Local cancer survivors will take the first lap, as a sort of victory lap, and then the main running and walking will commence.
For some students, it may be just a one-time event. However, some students, like Balisi and DeJong, may end up hooked.
“ It’s life-changing,” says Balisi. “Come to one event and you’ll have a family behind you.”
“Our goal is to save as many lives as we can and raise awareness,” says DeJong. “While we may not actually be physically fighting the disease and saving our loved ones, we are at least doing something, even if it’s something like buying cupcakes.
“One person can make a huge difference,” says DeJong. “Imagine the difference we could make as a group.”

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