Adam Davis lost his grandmother to cancer last week.
Instead of wondering why this happened to his family, however, the Butler University senior is part of an organization fighting to end the disease.
Davis is involved with Relay for Life, an organization sponsored by the American Cancer Society. The organization allows groups across the world to organize events with an end goal of raising money and awareness for cancer treatment.
“It’s near and dear to my heart and has made me more motivated than ever to get behind this cause,” Davis said.
More than four million individuals in 20 countries raised funds and awareness last year under the Relay for Life banner, according to the Relay for Life website.
Butler’s Relay for Life chapter generated more than $60,000 during the 2012-2013 academic year. The figure was tallied at the conclusion of a 12-hour overnight event at the Health and Recreation Complex last April.
That total surpassed the chapter’s monetary goal and earned it Pacesetter status, meaning it exceeded $60,000.
“I think the youth at Butler are very involved and want to get involved in these health causes,” said Davis, the Colleges Against Cancer president.
Colleges Against Cancer is the student organization Butler’s Relay for Life chapter is run by, allowing the chapter to receive funding from Student Government Association.
Davis’ grandmother died as a result of brain and lung cancer. However, Davis has been involved with Butler’s Relay for Life chapter since arriving at the university.
He accepted CAC’s president position after serving as a fundraising chair and team captain for Phi Delta Theta fraternity in years past.
Senior Lauren Iles, a co-chair on the CAC executive committee, said she has been involved in Relay for Life events as long as she can remember.
Iles also recently lost a grandparent to cancer, with her grandfather dying from the disease in November 2013. But she said she uses the movement, in part, to celebrate her family members that are survivors.
“Seeing how much it has affected my life and my family’s life is enough that I want to try and end it and make sure I don’t have to see another family member go through that,” Iles said.
Junior Lynn Zeheralis also knows how personal the fight against cancer can be.
Zeheralis was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age four. She successfully fought the disease, and she now serves on the Butler Relay for Life chapter’s recruitment team.
Zeheralis said she did not like to publicize her fight when she was younger, but once she arrived at Butler, she used her story to inspire others to get involved.
“It’s a horrible disease, but it’s something that brings us all together,” Zeheralis said.
Butler’s chapter has organized a number of events, both small and large, to bring awareness to and raise money for the fight against cancer.
Most recently, the group held its second “Paint the Campus Purple” week this school year. Purple ribbons were tied to trees, light posts and the stone bulldog in front of Atherton Union.
Last semester, chapter members put on a similar event, during which they dyed Star Fountain’s water purple and created a luminaria ribbon out of bags on the mall.
Friday night, Butler’s Relay for Life chapter was selected as the charity supported by the annual Freshman Skits event. Close to $1,500 was raised for cancer research that night.
One of the chapter’s other promotions includes sponsoring men’s and women’s basketball games and providing T-shirts to Dawg Pound members for those games.
Two larger events will come later this spring. Bark for Life, a Relay for Life event for dog owners, will be held at Broad Ripple Park on March 29.
Following that is the chapter’s key event: the 12-hour, overnight Relay for Life event. This year’s event will be held April 11-12 from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. at the HRC.
Davis said the chapter’s monetary goal for the school year is $65,000. According to Butler’s Relay for Life page, 208 participants on 38 teams have raised nearly $12,000 so far.
Each Butler Greek house has a Relay for Life team, and Davis said the CAC executive committee is pushing for more Greek involvement in the committee.
At the same time, Iles said the committee is pushing to get more non-Greek and even off-campus teams—including some Indianapolis Public Schools institutions—involved in Butler’s efforts.
Iles said getting college students to support a cause is part of the Butler Relay for Life chapter’s recipe for success.
“We’ve seen it a lot. If you get the younger generation involved and behind something, it makes a huge movement,” Iles said. “(We) have the ability to change a lot for future generations.”
To learn more about starting a team within the chapter, visit relayforlife.org and search “Relay for Life of Butler University” in the “sign up for an event” box.