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To Life!

Annual Cancer Relay Brings Out the Best in UCSB


I’ll admit it: I am a walking UCSB stereotype.

I dye and straighten my hair on a regular basis. I feel disgusting when I don’t work out. I own plenty of shorts with the word “pink” emblazoned across the butt, and at least two t-shirts that I got from Greek activities. I love beer, but I love tequila more. I have danced to Rebelution, sung karaoke to Journey and performed a particularly embarrassing dance to an old ‘N Sync video. I have set off smoke alarms in the dorms, sake bombed at CaliRoll and eaten nachos at pretty much every place in Isla Vista. I’ve fallen off my bike because I was distracted by my cell phone, I’ve risked life and limb wandering the streets sauced at 6 a.m. and I’ve pulled plenty of all-nighters to maintain my perfect little grade point average throughout.

I’ve even worn Uggs with skirts.

Basically, I am the embodiment of everything James Baron (longtime UCSB critic best known for his website, The DarkSideofUCSB.com) of wants whisked away from our sunny little school. And I am not a bad person. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that UCSB students are fully capable of being both belligerent alcoholics and better-than-average people.

We may party hard, but it’s been well established that we also study hard. We may get wild, but we also give plenty of good back to the community. And, when we decide to do something, we always do it right. Which is why I think the Relay For Life is the perfect philanthropic event for UCSB.

Founded in 1985 by Dr. Gordy Klatt, the original Relay For Life consisted of the colorectal surgeon walking the track at Baker stadium in Tacoma, Washington for 24 hours straight. His friends paid $25 a person to run or walk for thirty minutes at a time with him, and he raised $27,000 for cancer research before the 24 hours was up.

Since then, the Relay For Life has spread to tracks across the country, and there are now relays all year long. The actual format of the relay is simple: teams sign up to participate, and commit to raising cash for the American Cancer Society from sponsors, friends and families prior to the event. Then, during the relay, each team is required to have at least one person walking or running around the track for 24 hours straight. Teams spend the night at the track, making it a giant slumber party, and allowing for booths, activities and events to spring up around the centerpiece of the actual relay. A chance to combine socializing with saving lives? Santa Barbara students couldn’t possibly resist that.

UCSB has been hosting its own Relay For Life since 2004, and this year’s event, already 842 participants signed up on 86 teams, has raised $28,879.23. And there is still about a week until the May 3 event.

One of those 86 teams is named the Good News Bears - the more charitable counterpart to the Bad News Beers, the intramural softball team I play on with my peers at the Daily Nexus. The Nexus has been doing the relay on and off since I started working there, but this year will be my first time.

As it says on my Relay profile page, I am relaying for very personal reasons. When I was in elementary school, I developed a crush on a cute new boy in my class named Ross. He was adorable and popular, and he lived down the street from me too. As far as my pigtailed, pre-pubescent self was concerned, he was totally crush-worthy. I used to make up excuses to walk by his house, hoping he would be playing outside so I could hang out with him. Before I had even mastered the art of proper pigtail-twirling, he was diagnosed with cancer. He never made it to middle school. A few years after that, I lost my amazing Aunt Phyllis to cancer. When I was a teenager, my best friend’s father passed away because of the disease. A few years after that, my grandmother died after a short and unexpected battle with it.

When Ross was sick, I was too young to really comprehend cancer as anything more than just the thing making him ill. When Aunt Phyllis passed away, my mother made it a point to keep me sheltered from the harsher realities of her fight with the disease. But, when my grandmother got her diagnosis, I flew to Florida to help with her home hospice care. For the first time in my life, I saw what the disease could do to a person, and it was devastating. Watching cancer leech the life from my vibrant, vivacious Grandma Zena was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and I can only imagine what it is like for people who spend years dealing with the disease. What’s $20 or 24 hours of my time in comparison to that? That is why I am relaying.

And, it is why I am using this week’s column to do something even more stereotypical of us college students - ask for money.

Please visit my Relay page or my team’s page and donate to the Relay. You can also donate to the organization as a whole at RelayForLife.org. Any amount makes a difference, and every donation will be greatly appreciated by me, by our team and by the American Cancer Society.

And yes, James Baron, we will even take money from you.

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