Teams of students from the University of Georgia will meet at a campus track Friday for UGA's seventh annual Relay for Life to benefit the American Cancer Society.
UGA was the first college in the United States to start a student-only Relay for Life, in 2000. Since then, colleges across the country have followed its example and started annual relays of their own.
These campus relays are just some of the hundreds that take place every year. Kaitlyn Bagnato, a student chairwoman for the UGA Relay for Life, said that more than 115 teams participated in UGA's event last year.
"There were over 2,000 participants in 2006," Bagnato said. "The support and participation of students is amazing."
Leanne Kutlik, a 21-year-old biology major from Evans, is the captain of Team Munchkin, one of many teams participating in the UGA relay this year. Last year, Team Munchkin raised almost $5,000 for the American Cancer Society, contributing to $257,000 that the UGA relay raised overall, making it the largest on-campus fund-raiser at the university and the largest campus relay in the nation.
"This year I hope to raise even more than that," Kutlik said. "Currently we have about $2,000 total."
Relays are an overnight event in which teams in a community gather and members take turns walking around a track.
"This action symbolizes that because cancer does not stop fighting, we do not stop fighting," Kutlik said.
The American Cancer Society uses the money raised not only to fund cancer research, but also to support people who are undergoing treatments for cancer, she said.
This year's Relay for Life will begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Spec Towns Track on Lumpkin Street in Athens. It will continue through the night and end about 8 the next morning.
Before the relay, teams hold fundraisers to contribute to the total. Popular fundraisers around the UGA campus include date auctions and benefit concerts.
Team Munchkin has numerous fundraisers planned for the 2007 relay.
"One of our biggest fund-raisers is an Oreo ball sale on campus," Kutlik said. Oreo balls are a type of bon-bon. Three sales have been planned for this year.
Kutlik's team held a bowling tournament in February that raised $325, and a poker tournament with each player's buy-in going toward the American Cancer Society.
"This is a great way to get more people excited about the cause," Kutlik said.
Kutlik became involved in Relay for Life a few months after her brother Scott Kutlik died of neuroblastoma, a type of cancer, after battling it for 15 months. He was 14.
"I felt helpless to do anything the whole time I watched him fight the disease. When I returned to school for my junior year, I heard about Relay for Life and realized that it was an excellent way to help prevent other families from having to watch their loved ones go through what Scott went through," she said.
To help Kutlik and Team Munchkin raise money for the American Cancer Society, go online to www.uga.edu/relay Follow the "Click here to donate" and the "Donate" links and type "Leanne Kutlik" to reach her personal relay page.
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