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Students promote awareness for Relay for Life

Ann Marie Jakubowski | Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Purple hair extensions, purple clothing and purple desserts in the dining halls will flood campus this week to promote fundraising and awareness for the Notre Dame Relay for Life, which will take place Apr. 12 and 13.

Freshman Teresa Kennedy, honorary student chairperson for Notre Dame’s Relay for Life this year, the Relay committee is hosting Purple Week 2013 through Friday to engage students in its larger mission on campus. The funds raised through Notre Dame’s Relay for Life in April will go toward cancer research at the American Cancer Society, Kennedy said.

“[Purple Week] really has a dual purpose because first, all the funds raised go to the Relay and the money we collect there,” Kennedy said. “It’s also a way to get people interested in the Relay and make it interactive, since all of these events are so public and hard to ignore.”

Notre Dame Relay for Life chairperson Jessica Brookshire said the committee’s 2013 fundraising goal is $175,000.

One of the most visible Purple Week activities is the sale of paper cutout feet, which can be purchased at locations all over campus for $1 each. Last year, paper feet sales raised $6,082 for the Relay, Brookshire said.

“It was a great fundraiser as far as dollars raised, but also [for] the awareness it brought about for the event,” Brookshire said.

Marc Burdell, an Alumni Association director and this year’s honorary faculty chairperson for the Relay for Life, said the paper feet have both symbolic and monetary value for the project.

“Many of the buildings on campus sell these purple feet for $1 and they’re put up all over campus to build a kind of path that leads to the Relay for Life in April,” Burdell said. “For the first time this year, students can purchase feet with Domer Dollars at the Huddle and Reckers.”

Kennedy said she is looking forward to “Wear Purple” day on Thursday, when community members are encouraged to dress in purple clothes to show support for the project.

“It will be interesting to see how many people there are that day who are willing to back up this cause and really get behind it,” Kennedy said. “It’s two months ahead of the Relay still, but it will be great to see the purple as a visible sign of support.”

Purple is “the identifying color for [cancer] surivivors,” Kennedy said, and she can include both herself and Burdell in that category. Kennedy survived a rare form of tissue cancer and Burdell overcame a serious lymphoma diagnosis.

Burdell said he thinks of his position as honorary chairperson as an opportunity to connect with others who are affected by cancer.

“I was diagnosed about three and a half years ago, and before that, I was healthy,” Burdell said. “I had never even been in the hospital. I went from being unaware and unaffected to being a pretty severe cancer patient.

“Now, I can talk about patient advocacy and what people can do to support each other. I find myself today leading a normal life, and as chairperson, I hope to help others understand what I’ve gone through and let them know that they can be empowered to get through it too,” Burdell said.

Kennedy said she was involved with the national Relay for Life in high school and that she’s pleased to have the opportunity to participate in the Notre Dame version of the event.

“I’m glad I get to share my experience about what I went through with other people here, and I hope people will be able to come to me for support if they or someone they know has cancer,” Kennedy said. “I’m an example that you can lead a totally normal life after a cancer diagnosis.”

Purple hair extensions will be sold in the Coleman Morse center on Friday, and purple feet will be sold all week across campus. Notre Dame’s Relay for Life will take place from Apr. 12 to 13 at the Compton Family Ice Arena. Information about the event can be found at relay.org/NDin.