Alex Bacon/The AS Review

Using creativity and energy, students across campus and disciplines are banding together to combat a common enemy:  cancer.

Western Students Against Cancer is an AS club that focuses on educating people about cancer and cancer prevention, Martha West, Western Students Against Cancer president, said. The club also participates in advocacy and community outreach.

The biggest event Western Students Against Cancer hosts is Western’s annual Relay for Life.  Half of the club’s time is spent on planning, fundraising and organizing Relay for Life, which takes place in mid-May, West said. This will be the sixth year Western Students Against Cancer has hosted Relay for Life on campus.

Relay for Life is a 20-hour fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, Tommy Mosich, Relay for Life committee co-chair, said. From noon on May 15 to 8 a.m. on May 16, participants walk on the track outside the Wade King Recreation Center.  People can participate in teams or as individuals, but the idea is that at least one member of every team is walking throughout the event.

“Cancer never sleeps and nor do we,” Mosich said.

Activities at Relay for Life include the lighting of luminarias at 10 p.m. and team competitions.  During the Luminaria ceremony, people carry little bags with their reasons for walking inside as they walk around the track.

Since Western no longer has a football team and there are no longer football games to attend, West said Relay for Life is the biggest event on campus.

The minimum cost to participate is $10 (which is a participation fee), but it is expected that participants work to raise money in advance of the event. Cancer survivors can participate for free.

The $10 participation fee goes to help pay for dinner, breakfast, a late night snack, the track rental and portable bathrooms, Mosich said.

Many of the supplies needed for Relay for Life are donated, such as sand and tents. Mosich said there are about 70 volunteers involved in coordinating Relay for Life.  Bagpipe players volunteer their time during the Luminaria ceremony. Western Students Against Cancer is involved with the Boys and Girls Club in Ferndale, and the children there helped decorate the bags used in the Luminaria, West said.

So far, Western Students Against Cancer has raised $20,000, but by the end of Relay for Life, the club expects to have raised $80 to $85,000, Mosich said. The most money Relay for Life has collected was $120,000.

When the club isn’t working to plan Relay for Life, members coordinate other cancer awareness-related activities.
Throughout the year, the club hosts three sporting events:  “Dig Pink,” a women’s volleyball game in October; “Think Pink,” a women’s basketball game in February; and “Coaches vs. Cancer,” a men’s basketball game in February. The two women’s sport events focus on breast cancer awareness. The men’s event focuses on testicular or prostate cancer awareness, West said.  At the events they take donations for the American Cancer Society.

The club is also involved in the Great American Smokeout, the third Thursday in November, designed to help people stop smoking.  The club conducts education about all kinds of smoking, including hookah.

In past years, Western Students Against Cancer has hosted Seasons of Hope, a winter celebration at St. Joseph hospital for cancer patients, West said.

During March, which is colon cancer awareness month, the club works with St. Joseph cancer center to distribute colo-rectal screening kits, or “poop kits” to pharmacies around Bellingham to encourage people to self-test for colon cancer, West said. According to West, colon cancer is extremely preventable, but a major killer.

During May, Western Students Against Cancer hands out sunscreen and Mallard ice cream.  The club tries to have seasonal cancer education, West said.

Western Students Against Cancer meets on Wednesdays from 6 to 7 p.m. in Academic West 202. For more information about Relay for Life, visit www.relayforlifeofwwu.org or e-mail relayforlifeofwwu@gmail.com. For more information about Western Students Against Cancer, e-mail wwwuwsac@hotmail.com.