Students, Community Make CSU Stanislaus Relay For Life a Success

Kailey Fisicaro/|

The California State University, Stanislaus Relay For Life was a huge success event this weekend, as the 24-hour cancer fundraiser became a combined community event for the first time, drawing in teams from Turlock High School.

“The American Cancer Society approached me last summer and they wanted Turlock High School to collaborate with the university,” said Kristin Bettencourt, Relay For Life Club Advisor for Turlock High School’s teams.

According to Bettencourt, the first college event was held in 2010. The university always held its Relay For Life on campus, but a recent rule change within the CSU system meant they were not going to be allowed to have a 24-hour event on site.

“Basically, the college kids needed somewhere to go,” said Bettencourt. “Turlock High School has had a team for the last 10 years so the American Cancer Society organizers at a Modesto office came to us and said, ‘Turlock High School has been doing this for a really long time,’ and they knew how long I had been involved. I chaired the community event before so they said, ‘Why doesn’t Turlock High School collaborate with the university?’”

In the original planning stages it was expected the combined event would be held on the THS campus, but according to Bettencourt, new leadership at the university meant a push for making things work on campus. The change was made for Relay to again be held at the university. Still, after the relationship had been facilitated, the two parties wanted to go ahead with the combined high school-college Relay.

For Bettencourt, this was not the first time the event was based around a sense of community. Although Turlock High School divides up into 10 teams of 25, all of the teams are affiliated with the Turlock High School Relay For Life Club, a group that formed two years ago on the Bulldogs’ campus. Since September, the group of students met every other week with Bettencourt as their advisor to discuss fundraising ideas, actively fundraise, talk cancer statistics, understand the American Cancer Society’s role in patient advocacy, and do what they could as students to try to prevent themselves from getting cancer.

“It is a big deal to me that we are one team at Turlock High School,” said Bettencourt. “Our team motto is that cancer doesn’t discriminate and neither do we.”

Bettencourt, on staff at Turlock High School, also works on the Salvation Army Board and the Arrowhead Board of Turlock. As of last night, Turlock High School’s team had greatly surpassed their goal of $15,000, sitting about $400 away from reaching $25,000.

Mackenzie Shamgochian, voted one of the Turlock Chamber of Commerce’s two Youth Volunteers of the Year 2014, spoke of her involvement on the team – a commitment she has made for all four of her years at Turlock High School.

Shamgochian was recruited in her freshman year to join the team, but her dedication comes from her family’s connection to the disease. Shamgochian, whose great-grandmother died of breast cancer, wanted to give back to those who are fighting today.

According to Shamgochian, several new freshmen joined the team this year, which means a continuation of Turlock High School’s Relay For Life legacy in the future. Although meeting on a different campus changed up the event, it did not halt the team’s excitement, nor its success.

“The community event is just so much bigger so it was just a different atmosphere,” said Shamgochian. “But it was fun.”

At another end of the track, junior Business, Finance, and Accounting major Tou Yang of CSU Stanislaus’s Hmong Student Association gathered with his team to raise awareness for ovarian cancer. Members of HSA passed out blue ribbons to other clubs and teams to wear in honor of raising awareness for ovarian cancer research.

During the day, their booth drew in fellow relayers with their “Despicable Me” poster inviting people to stop and buy a kind of Asian cream soda or flavored lemonade.

Another HSA team member, Kong Vang, explained that their volleyball team dominates in CSU Stanislaus’s intramurals, so they thought it would be fun to play at the event. The team set up a net in the grass to charge people for play time, but ended up letting whoever wanted to come and enjoy the game play for free.

For the Hmong Student Association’s first year at the CSU Stanislaus event, the team members felt that they had had a successful day.

Despite untimely sprinklers soaking a few campsites just before 10 p.m., the combined college-high school atmosphere of CSU Stanislaus’s Relay For Life proved to be a success.

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