'Crusade Against Cancer'

'Crusade Against Cancer'

Reston Relay for Life gives hope, while raising money to find a cure for cancer.

As the night sky over South Lakes High School glows brightly with luminaries this Saturday, May 20, Casey Sullivan, 24, of Chantilly will be thinking of her father, who has been fighting cancer for three years.

As a surprise gift for her father’s 56th birthday, Sullivan raised more than $7,000 in this year’s Reston Relay for Life, which benefits the American Cancer Society.

“I gave [the gift] to him back in January on his birthday,” said Sullivan, whose father was first diagnosed with a gastrointestinal cancer back in February 2003. “They thought they removed everything, but in July 2004, they found it had spread.”

This week Sullivan’s father undergoes surgery to have the cancer removed again. “I’ll be out there thinking of him while he’s in the hospital recovering,” said Sullivan. “Each step to me will mean coming closer and closer to a cure.”

SULLIVAN WILL join more than 800 people this year to celebrate cancer survivors, salute people fighting cancer and remember those who have lost their lives to the disease. In addition, the event will raise about $300,000 this year.

“I’ll be there not just for my father, but for everybody who has ever been diagnosed and will be diagnosed in the future,” said Sullivan.

Several dozen fund-raising teams will alternate laps around the track for 24 hours. Entertainment, including music groups, dee-jays and games, will be offered throughout the day and night as team members participate in activities around the South Lakes stadium.

“The event itself is a celebration, in honor of how far we’ve gotten in the crusade against cancer,” said Kristina Baumler, co-chair of this year’s event. After heart disease, cancer is the number two cause of death in U.S., a fact that has meaning to Baumler.

Her family has had several fights with cancer. Two of her grandparents died of cancer. Her mother, Jane Ackley, is a breast cancer survivor. “My maternal grandmother was also a breast cancer survivor,” said Baumler.

BAUMLER FIRST got started in Relay for Life in 2000 “both in celebration of survivors and in memory of those who have been lost,” she said. She won’t stop, she said, until “we cross the finish line,” referring to the relay’s motto, which is, “There is no finish until we find a cure.”

Mike Brown of Herndon, who has participated in Reston Relay for Life for several years and has raised about $15,000 since first getting involved in Relay, said most people know someone affected by cancer, which is why it’s so important to get involved.

“It just shows what individual effort can do,” said Brown, 39, who dedicates his walk to someone he knows fighting the disease each year. This year, he’s walking for his mother’s best friend and a co-worker’s wife.

“Making a difference against the fight against cancer is what means something to me,” said Baumler. “The interesting thing about Relay is once you stop by, you’re there forever. It’s a wonderful sense of community.”