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Aidan Project expects high turnout

Meg Mirshak | Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Aidan Project, a blanket-making drive now in its second year, will take place this Saturday. Organizers are promising more student involvement the second time around.

Circle-K’s annual Blanket Bash, where students made fleece blankets for chemotherapy patients, was renamed and reorganized after Notre Dame student Aidan Fitzgerald was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2006.

Chris Esber, Fitzgerald’s roommate at the time of his diagnosis, wanted to do something to support his friend in a time of need. As the Vice President of Service for Circle-K, the largest organizer of service opportunities on campus, Esber presented the idea of a service project to raise cancer awareness.

Last December, The Aidan Project brought 250 students together to make more than 100 blankets.

Circle-K is encouraging students to give whatever time they can to The Aidan Project, an open-house-type event. Making blankets requires no sewing and instructions will be provided, Circle-K President Katie Teitgen said.

The event will include refreshments and musical entertainment by Pat McKillen, a Knott resident and friend of Fitzgerald.

The completed blankets will be donated to the Indiana Cancer Pavilion at Indiana University Medical Center, where Fitzgerald underwent treatment last year. Teitgen hopes a large turnout at the event will make 150 blankets, which would surpass the amount from last year’s event.

Circle-K is also selling T-shirts this week to support The Aidan Project and to further cancer awareness on campus.

“People don’t always realize that a healthy nineteen-year-old like Aidan can have cancer,” Teitgen said.

Last year, the money raised by T-shirt sales was donated to the Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.

Early detection is the key to cancer survival and people should embrace cancer awareness, said Fitzgerald, who is back at Notre Dame this semester after undergoing treatment last fall.

“I hope [The Aidan Project] increases knowledge that cancer is a disease of our generation,” Fitzgerald said. “Cancer is a big part of my life and I am looking forward to seeing people at The Aidan Project excited about cancer awareness.”

When Fitzgerald, a Knott resident, appeared to be injured playing a game of football last fall, he never imagined how the next 24 hours would impact his life.

A CAT scan administered to diagnose Fitzgerald’s football injury revealed a more serious problem. His father, a doctor at Indiana University, viewed the x-ray and was startled to find evidence of cancer.

Fitzgerald immediately left Notre Dame for his home in Indianapolis. He was diagnosed with stage II testicular cancer the following morning.

After evaluating his options, Fitzgerald left Notre Dame for the semester to be treated at Indiana University. His cancer was not terminal, but complications from treatment forced him to take the entire year off from school.

“You don’t expect it to happen to someone you see walking down the hall every day,” said Mike Sullivan, who lives in Knott Hall.

Circle-K, Knott Hall, and the Class of 2009 are co-sponsoring The Aidan Project, which will be held Saturday in the LaFortune Center Ballroom from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.