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Meet Miami’s Relay For Life President, Krista Warren

Everyone has been or will be touched by cancer in some way throughout their lives. While this is a sad reality, Relay For Life continues the fight against cancer each year, with the hope that one day the world will be cancer free. To join the fight, Miami University’s students hold their own relay event, and Miami’s Relay For Life president Krista Warren has worked to make this year’s relay bigger and better!
 
This senior International Studies and Geography major hailing from New Richmond, Ohio has been involved with organizations fighting cancer her entire college career. Before she graduates and heads off to the Case Western Reserve University School of Law to study International Law, she hopes to leave her mark on this year’s Relay For Life.
 
HC: When did you become involved with Relay For Life, and why?
 
KW: I became involved with Relay during my first year at Miami after I stumbled upon the booth at Megafair. My mom was diagnosed with Stage III Colon Cancer right before I started my senior year of high school. While she was in remission by the time I left to attend Miami the following year, it was still a pretty fresh reality of how heavily cancer had impacted my family. Thinking about how strong my mother was throughout weeks of chemotherapy, radiation and surgeries, I wanted to honor and celebrate her as a survivor. Joining Colleges Against Cancer/Relay for Life seemed like, and has proven to be the perfect venue to do so. As a result of joining, I have had the opportunity to share my story, as well as hear the stories of many others, persistently reminding me of how cancer has affected almost everyone in some manner. 
 
HC: Could you discuss the history of Relay For Life at Miami?
 
KW: Relay has undergone some transformation in the past years. During my first year, the organization was known as “On Campus for Cancer Awareness” but the American Cancer Society recently implemented a nationwide change that turned us to “Colleges Against Cancer”, the organization sponsoring Relay.
 
HC: When did you take over as President, and what made you want to lead Miami’s Relay For Life?
 
KW: This is my first year as the President, however I pretty much shadowed the position last year as Vice President. One thing that is really great about our organization is that your year at Miami doesn’t put limits on what position you can hold. If you are dedicated and passionate about the organization, it is oftentimes plausible to have a leadership position as a first-year. I served as chair of Cancer Education my freshman and sophomore year, and decided it was something I wanted to become more involved with throughout the rest of my career at Miami. It has been an intense, but rewarding choice. 
 
 
HC: How much work goes into organization a Relay For Life at a university campus?
 
KW: Wow… organizing a Relay. To put things into perspective, last year’s Relay was in April 2013, and we began planning for this year’s Relay in May. There are so many intricate details that need catered to in the planning process. Behind the scenes there are a lot of reservations, budgets, and an astronomical amount of meetings. Once we get back to Miami in August we begin recruiting new committee members, teams and planning aspects of the event, and then second semester we oftentimes focus on fundraising, entertainment/plans for day of relay, and finalization of the schedule. It’s literally a year round planning process. 
 
HC: What was last year’s Relay For Life like? Successes, weaknesses?

KW: As you can imagine, with Relay taking place in the early weeks of spring, we oftentimes battle with the weather. Last year it was pretty cool outside and there was some rain, which can sometimes turn people away from attending the event. Fortunately we still had a really great turnout and we are especially glad because there was some awesome entertainment. AfterDark partnered with us last year to bring a former American Idol contestant as well as some other fun stuff like a “You’re Fired” painting booth. We also had a very poignant Luminaria ceremony where we were able to hear the stories of two student survivors, a student who lost a family member to cancer, and a student who is celebrating the survival of a family member after having cancer. 

In terms of weaknesses, we know that 18 hours is a really long time and not everyone can stay for the entire event. By the time morning rolled around, there weren’t many people walking the track. We always encourage people that even if they can’t stay overnight, they should try and come back in the morning if possible so we can finish the event strongly. It makes for a much stronger morale when the event is represented in larger numbers. We also had a few groups cancel on us last minute, which makes it hard on everyone, especially since they were advertised in the entertainment schedule. 
 
HC: What are you hoping to see at this year’s Relay For Life?
 
KW: At this year’s Relay, we would love to see a bigger representation from the Greek community. In years past there have been conflicts with formals, etc, but they are a big part of Miami and have the potential to contribute positively to the event. With that being said, we encourage all organizations to join, as Relay serves a great platform for team-bonding, sometimes at a new level. The committee team speaks from experience. After 18 hours with each other and hearing the reasons of why each of us is participating, there is an inexplicable unity. That’s one thing that we are constantly hoping to see at Relay — unity and support for one another. 
 
We also love to see student survivors at the event. While it can be a really personal topic, we simply want those in the Miami community that have or have had cancer to know that we are here for them as a support system, and this event is in honor of their fight. Our mission is to celebrate them. 
 
HC: How is Relay For Life helping to fight cancer? 
 
KW: All funds raised during Relay for Life go directly to the American Cancer Society (ACS), which is notorious for having a variety of programs to help current cancer patients. Some programs include  (1) “Look Good Feel Better” which helps women going through cancer treatments cope with hair loss throughout providing wigs, etc. (2) Road to Recovery which helps provide patients going through treatment with a ride to the hospital/facility if they are unable to drive themselves (3) Hope Lodge which are hotel like facilities that allow cancer patients to stay for free while going through treatment if they live a far distance from the hospital (sort of like a Ronald McDonald House for adults). Miami Colleges Against Cancer actually goes to the Hope Lodge in Cincinnati a few times a semester to cook dinner for people staying there and hear their stories. 
 
Moreover, ACS is famous for the funding they provide for doctors across the country to do cancer research. One big research project that ACS is running right now is called CPS-3 (Cancer Prevention Study 3) that looks to collect information through blood samples that are expected to provide cancer prevention information in the future of the study. ACS also works in an advocacy position in that they lobby for certain bill passages, etc. For example, ACS has recently been working with legislators in regards to insurance companies passing laws that would require companies to cover oral chemo treatment, which they recently stopped doing. 
 
 
HC: In your opinion, why should someone participate in Relay For Life?
 
KW: There are a lot of reasons, but for the basics…  it is probable that cancer has affected someone you know in some way, shape or form. This is an incredible opportunity to realize just how many of your peers have also been affected, and Celebrate, Remember and Fight Back against Cancer. 
 
HC: Are there any moments that you’ve seen during Relay For Life that have really touched you? Ex. A team coming together to support someone who just recently passed away from cancer, etc.
 
KW: The Luminaria ceremony is always a really touching part of Relay. Normally everyone in the audience is shedding a few tears after hearing the stories of survivors and seeing all the luminaria bags lining the track. Last year, however, a group of students came together to form a team in support of their professor’s wife who was diagnosed with cancer during the semester. This was a prime example of a group of students uniting in support of their professor, truly encompassing the whole Miami community. 
 
HC: Is there any final words you would like to say, or anything I haven’t asked that you would like to address about Relay For Life?
 
KW: Even if you can’t stay for the full 18 hours, we encourage you to stop by to see what Relay is all about! And if you’re interested, it’s not too late to register a team. If you have any questions or want to sign up, feel free to e-mail us at murelay@gmail.com or check out the website at www.relayforlife.org/muohio
 
Melissa is a senior journalism and psychology major this year at Miami University. She is the president of the Her Campus chapter at Miami University of Ohio, and is a member of several other student organizations.
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