Student relays her passion for fighting cancer

By The Beacon | April 2, 2014 11:27pm

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Photos by Alex Bush

Clare Duffy |

Most people who participate in a Relay for Life event “relay” with a specific person in mind. Junior Katelyn Griffin relays for her mother, a cancer survivor. Griffin has been involved in Relay since she was a child, when her mother relayed for her grandmother. She started her own team in the ninth grade, bringing Relay for Life to her high school for the first time.

“I actually tried to start a team when I was in eighth grade, but they wouldn’t really let me,” Griffin said. “I didn’t give up hope, though, and it worked out the next year.”

Griffin’s involvement in the non-profit organization, which benefits the American Cancer Society, has only grown since then. She currently acts a member of Relay for Life’s Great West Division Youth Task Force, which oversees campus and youth events, and as the executive director for UP’s annual Relay for Life, the most recent of which took place last Friday in the Chiles Center.

“Everyone who relays has an immediate connection because of cancer. It’s neat to be connected through that and to have the same thing to fight for,” Griffin said.

Griffin’s passion for Relay for Life is visible to those she works with. Junior Margot Lewis, who relays for her dad and  works on the planning committee, believes that volunteering for Relay for Life is not for everyone because it requires such a large time commitment, and that’s what makes Griffin so unique.

“(Katelyn) spends a huge amount of time outside planning meetings working on relay, she’s crazy busy and she makes time for it, which shows how passionate she is,” Lewis said. “When she finds a new idea or has news to share with the (planning) group, she just beams, you can tell how excited she is about relay.”

This year’s relay at UP, which hosted 37 teams and a total of 467 participants, raised $36,939.47, which helps the ACS raise awareness about and fight to end cancer.

Over $1,500 of UP’s total earnings were raised by Griffin herself. She raises funds by selling hand-painted cups via Facebook and Instagram, a large commitment when balanced with classes, student teaching for her elementary education major and the actual planning of the relay.

“It can be a little hectic at times, but I think with everything I’m involved with, I’ve gotten really good at managing my time and picking and choosing what’s really important,” Griffin said. “It’s definitely worth it.”

Both Griffin and Lewis are certain that they will continue participating in and volunteering for relay long after they leave UP.

“Everyone that takes the time to help put (Relay for Life) on does so because it’s something that’s so near and dear to our hearts,” Lewis said.