Event relays hope for cancer survivors

N-Relay-for-Life Colby Patterson

Relay for Life’s first event continued to provide hope despite the U’s low number of participants.

Brianna Coopman, a Relay for Life specialist, said the relay event is held each year to raise money for cancer research at the U. One million dollars has been granted to the Huntsman Cancer Research Center by Relay for Life, and some of the research discovered by Mario Capecchi was paid for by Relay for Life donations.

The event was scheduled to run on Saturday from 5 p.m. to Sunday at 7 p.m.

Relay for Life is also a provider of family services such as the Hope Lodge Inn, a safe place for families to stay in downtown Salt Lake City. They also provide “wig closets” for women who are beginning chemotherapy to learn how to do their hair and makeup.

The program also conducts outreach programs with cancer survivors to speak to newly diagnosed cancer patients and their families to help in the process.

The U has hosted the event for approximately 10 years and Coopman said it used to be “huge,” with close to 100 participants. Last year, the numbers dropped and this year they dropped further with only a few participants showing up before 10 p.m.

The event began by honoring the survivors with running a lap and a moment of silence. Throughout the night teams walked laps, participated in a raffle and played games such as darts and Twister in order to win other prizes.

Starbucks provided coffee to help keep participants awake throughout the night and Einstein Bagels provided breakfast. There was also a mini concert and a fire with s’mores.

Currently, the program has raised $6,000. Coopman said her goal by the end of the season in August is to raise near $11,000.

Brian Ferebee, a senior in exercise and sports science and vice president of Omega Delta Phi, the U’s first multi-cultural fraternity, was at the event with his fraternity brothers with the “Pie a Delta Phi” event for two dollars a pie. The proceeds were all donated to Relay for Life.
Ferebee said the fraternity was there because it “strives to better the community.”

This year is Omega Delta Phi’s second year participating in Relay for Life.

Matt Helmke, one of the survivors honored at this year’s relay event, was diagnosed with brain cancer on Sept. 12, 2012 and finished chemotherapy in March 2013. Doctors told Helmke he would not start feeling better until six months to a year after chemo.

“That just pushed me even harder,” Helmke said.

Three months after chemo, Helmke began racing in Relay for Life in Elko, Nev., where he did 91 laps. He did 41 and a half miles in his next Relay for Life in Ely, Nev. before his father suggested he run across the entire state.

On Sept. 12, 2013, one year after Helmke was diagnosed, he backpacked alone across Nev. for 23 days, covering 457 miles.

“It was really cool, miserable at times, but really cool,” Helmke said.

Helmke said Relay for Life “gives hope” to those diagnosed with cancer, as well as survivors.

“It’s what got me off my ass and started walking,” he said.

e.trepanier@chronicle.utah.edu

@emiliedeeann