Students relay for cancer cure


Jennifer Walker

Photos from student Instagrams.

Natalie Brink and Jennifer Walker

More than 800 people participated in Relay for Life on April 13, raising more than $24,000 to fight cancer. This was the eighth year Vandegrift hosted Relay for Life.

“It was so fun to see kids playing football, playing frisbee, and when a band played they just rushed to the stage and screamed like they were at a concert that costs $100 per ticket,” Kirsten Mulligan, Relay for Life coordinator and English teacher, said. “It’s just so fun to see kids having raw fun for a good cause.”

Students organized themselves into groups that raise money and walk together at Relay for Life. The teams took part in the event through the night to illustrate that “cancer never sleeps.”

“It really isn’t just a sad event,” sophomore Lily Oliver said. “You get to hang out with your friends while you’re bringing awareness to a great cause.”

Committees of students organize Relay for Life, with Mulligan overseeing the committees. All students were eligible to join a committee or team to participate.

“It pulls kids from all parts of the campus,” Mulligan said. “There are kids out there from all different clubs, and staff members and it’s like the one thing that we all come together for one cause.”

For senior Lauren Nuessner, Relay for Life means something special. She was part of the team MAD Dash for the Cure, named after her sister Madison, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2016.

“It’s opened up my eyes to cancer,” Nuessner said. “I think there was about 50 people on the team, all supporting her and supporting a cure for cancer. It’s helped her realize, ‘I’ll be OK. I have all these people here with me.’”

Madison Nuessner graduated from Vandegrift in 2017 and now attends the University of Arkansas. Last year, she spoke at Relay for Life about her fight with cancer.

“She had to sit down and start from the beginning from what happened to the future,” Lauren Nuessner said. “It was helpful for her, definitely, just knowing everybody was here for her.”

Lily Oliver was part of the Relay for Life team Upstaging Cancer which raised $1,503. She herself has family members who have battled cancer.

“Luckily my grandmother who had uterine cancer has survived, and she’s doing a lot better now,” Oliver said. “But I have had family members who haven’t.”

Senior Christian Keys raised $1,225, making him the top participant at Relay for Life. He received some of the donations from a family friend who “likes to donate to charity.”

“I think it’s for a good cause,” Keys said. “Even though my family hasn’t dealt with cancer, we can give the money to people who don’t have the funds and need treatment. I can do whatever I can to help.”

The participants raised almost $4,000 more than their goal of $20,000 for the 2018 Relay for Life. Vandegrift has raised more than $250,000 for the American Cancer Society since its first Relay for Life.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s so fulfilling,” Mulligan said. “All I do is organize the students who organize Relay. To see my kids working so hard to have a successful event that they care about it so much, and to watch all of that come to fruition, it’s such a nice event.”