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New grassroots organization revamps battle against cancer

October 10th, 2013

Many students across the John Carroll University campus carry with them the burden of family members and friends who have been touched by cancer.

The Carroll Cancer Advocacy Network [CAN] is the brainchild of Stephanie Fair ’13 who lost three of her grandparents, and most recently her father, to cancer. This loss inspired her to create an organization that is completely unique to JCU and strives to battle cancer with JCU’s emblem on its shield.

Replacing the former Relay for Life cancer advocacy program on campus, Fair’s Carroll CAN will bring a fresh approach to the way the University supports victims and their families.

Relay for Life, the 12-hour advocacy signature event, had decreased in campus interest the past few years amongst the JCU community. JCU’s first Relay in 2007 succeeded in raising $100,356 but decreased steadily in the last six years, raising only $28,255 in 2013.

Moving forward with the new route of the Carroll CAN, there will be consistent events throughout the year.

“[Carroll CAN] will allow us to host many events that will keep cancer at the forefront of our minds rather than having it as mainly a secondary thought until one event in the spring,” Fair said.

Maura Jochum, graduate assistant for the Office of Student Activities and advisor for Carroll CAN, said, “There was a blitz before spring break about skin cancer awareness where we gave away sunscreen in the atrium. Look to see more things like that.”

Applications for the Carroll CAN committees are available in the Office of Student Activities and will be due Friday, Oct. 11. Once the different members of the committees are established, the organization will begin to make plans for the program’s upcoming year. There will be around 20 people taken on for the organizational positions. Compared to Relay for Life, the flexibility of involvement will increase by allowing for involvement on a semester basis rather than an all-year commitment.

The three-prong mission of the network will delegate how the different committees of the organization are formed. Three groups will be designated to work on raising funds, to help foster understanding and to provide hands-on volunteer opportunities within the community for cancer patients and their families.

Rather than the one leadership team that Relay had, students who work with Carroll CAN can get involved with organizations across campus working together through grassroots collaboration.

“I have spoken with [assistant athletic director] Jane Evans and senior Kelsey Aerni about how we can be involved in cancer awareness through athletics and in

partering with Kick it for Cancer, an event that took place last month, in the future,” Fair said. “Senior Sara Schoonmaker spoke to me with interest of Carroll CAN helping to transform an event organized by Kappa Delta last year in which care packages were created and delivered to patients receiving chemotherapy.”

With no direct affiliation to any other cancer organization, the grassroots Carroll CAN program strives to find ways to give back in a way specifically designed by the students, faculty and staff at JCU.

“Due to Relay for Life being a nationally organized event, the money raised went to the American Cancer Society to fund the various events and services which they provide,” explained Fair. “Carroll CAN hopes to benefit numerous cancer organizations allowing for the John Carroll community to have more say in who and where we would like the money we raise to go.”

“There are people on our campus that have cancer right now, and maybe for one specific event, the money will go to support their specific type of cancer, or will go in their name to an organization. We didn’t have those options before,” Jochum said.

This year, Casual for a Cure has been brought back, which allows faculty to dress down on Fridays in exchange for a donation. Approximately $1,500 has already been raised since the program’s revamp this year for the local cancer organization The Gathering Place.

A signature event, similar to the Relay event in the spring, is scheduled for March 29, 2014, while other events will be planned once the committees for Carroll CAN are determined.

The proceeds from all events will be allocated to various organizations across the Cleveland area, such as The Seidman Cancer Center of University Hospital or Taussig Cancer Center of the Cleveland Clinic.

Jochum added that knowing the money will provide services to local people ties into the JCU mission.

“A group of students can go and volunteer at this place. It’s men and women for others. It’s not just about throwing money places, it’s being with the people you are serving,” Jochum said.

With a mission backed by personal ties to JCU, Carroll CAN has discussed the possibility of creating a campus support group for those affected by cancer under the Lend-a-Hand committee. Fair said that the prospect of one of these groups is her favorite idea thus far.

“This concept was something I had thought about during my struggle of caring for and then losing my dad, but the need for it was affirmed by administrative assistant Kathy Gilway, at one of our open forum meetings about Carroll CAN,” Fair said, “We believe that this campus is in need of something that reminds us that we are not alone in our personal battles with cancer and that there are people on campus who we can turn to that will not just sympathize but understand.”