by BETHANY COX
Disclosure: I’m actually a member of this club myself, but there was no intended PR/bias involved in writing this story! The interviews and information are all legitimate.
“Celebrate. Remember. Fight back.”
At first glance, the phrase can seem enigmatic, especially to those who aren’t aware of its context. But to Yi Q Chen, Tracy Wilkinson, and the other members of the Colleges Against Cancer executive board here at UMD, this phrase encompasses everything their club stands for.
As one of many prominent service groups on campus, the University of Maryland’s Colleges Against Cancer is a public health organization that partners with the American Cancer Society to raise awareness and funds towards research for a cure. The group is led by co-directors Yi Q Chen and Tracy Wilkinson, who not only oversee the rest of the executive board but the entire club as well, which is broken down into committees and subcommittees.
Committees like Mission and Advocacy, Special Ceremonies, Survivorship, Sponsorship and Fundraising, and many more are integral to the group’s function, as they all serve very specific purposes in planning and hosting events, spreading awareness, and overall simply reaching out to the community on behalf of the American Cancer Society.
When asked about CAC, Chen described the group as, “a national collaboration of college students, faculty, and staff dedicated to fighting cancer, volunteering for the American Cancer Society, and improving college communities by instating and supporting programs of the ACS.”
But what exactly are these programs that CAC “instates and supports”? Well, throughout the year, Colleges Against Cancer hosts various fundraisers, benefits and activities all designed to raise funds for cancer research; however, the group’s efforts really culminate in the annual Relay for Life fundraiser.
Held in the spring of every year, Relay for Life is a 12-hour community walkathon designed to raise funds and support for those who have lost the battle against cancer, those who are currently fighting it, and those who have already won.
The motto for the event, as quoted by both Chen and Wilkinson, is, “Cancer doesn’t sleep, so neither do we!” Events leading up to Relay For Life include Prelay (a Relay kickoff), an acapella concert, an outdoor Zumba class, and multiple fundraisers with student-favorite business like Jason’s Deli and Chipotle.
Of course, while it all sounds like great entertainment, the group’s mission is one that doesn’t always compel fun and games. Interacting with those who have lost someone to cancer or are fighting cancer themselves is a main part of CAC’s responsibilities.
Chen recognizes the difficulty in this, as she states that it is “awful…but also empowering, because the club gives us the opportunity to stand together and know that there is hope…that we can help finish the fight.”
Wilkinson notes that, “We relay to make a difference in their lives today as well as to make a difference in the lives of future cancer patients.”
Overall, Colleges Against Cancer on UMD’s campus is a group dedicated to fighting the cancer fight. When asked to sum up the organization in one word, the co-directors aptly chose “hope” and “passion,” alluding to the hope of curing cancer once and for all, and the passion necessary to take a make a real difference in the community.
In Wilkinson’s words, Colleges Against Cancer recognizes how important it is to make “students, faculty, and other University staff aware of how prevalent cancer is on our campus, and how prevalent it is in our world today.”