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Project supports cancer patients

Mel Flanagan | Sunday, December 4, 2011


Hundreds of students gathered in South Dining Hall Saturday afternoon to make fleece blankets for cancer patients at the annual Aidan Project.

The project, sponsored by Circle K and Knott Hall, began in 2006 when former Knott resident Aidan Fitzgerald, then a sophomore, was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Over 400 students attended Saturday’s event. Knott service commissioner Mitchell Lopes said participants made 324 blankets and raised $2,000 from T-shirt sales, both improvements from last year’s event.

The money will be donated to the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis where Fitzgerald was treated. The blankets will be donated to multiple hospitals, but primarily to Riley.

Lopes said Fitzgerald developed the idea for the project after he went into remission.

“After he beat the cancer he thought it would be great if he could start something in tribute to cancer [treatment], so he came up with this project,” Lopes said. “He [had a friend in] Circle K and lived in Knott, so he brought the two together.”

Sophomore Mara Stolee, Aidan Project commissioner for Circle K, said the project is so popular with students because of its convenience.

“We run the event on campus, in South Dining Hall, which makes it extremely easy [for them] to take a few hours of their time and do something nice for others,” she said.

Circle K not only purchases the fleece, but also precuts it, Stolee said, making it feasible for students to stop by only briefly and still complete a blanket.

Lopes agreed that it is easy to contribute to the Aidan project.

“It’s a fairly quick project, so you don’t have to spend hours of time or a full day there,” he said. “You can pop in for 15 minutes, make a blanket, and you’ve done something constructive that helps someone. There’s a sense of accomplishment being able to say, “Hey, I only spent 15 minutes and I helped this great cause.”

Junior Tyler Smith has attended the Aidan Project the past three years because of his close relationship with Fitzgerald.

“I came to know him through my brother, who was his roommate and best friend,” Smith said. “Going to the Aiden Project is not only a way to help those who have cancer, but to support Aidan.”

Smith said Fitzgerald’s personality helps the project continue to reach high attendance numbers.

“He is very well-liked throughout the Notre Dame community,” he said. “And even though he has graduated, [Fitzgerald] continues to maintain many friendships with people still here.”

Sophomores Cara Curran and Colleen Kerins also participated in the Aidan Project because of personal relationships with Fitzgerald.

“We went last year because Aidan was a Cavanaugh football coach, so a lot of Cavanaugh girls were involved,” Kerins said.

Curran said the project is a simple way to give back to those less fortunate.

“You can just go and relax and hang out with your friends,” she said. “And they make it really easy for you to make the blankets.”

Stolee said the brilliance of the Aidan Project stems from the way it takes a simple idea and applies it on such a large scale.

“Cancer changes the way people live their lives, but with the Aidan Project we hope to change the way that they live with cancer by offering them gifts of love and support,” she said. “Cancer patients fight a hard battle, and it is important that they know each day that people care about them and are cheering them on.”