Community rallies for those in fight with cancer

Cancer survivors, caregivers, family, friends and community members walked for a cause Saturday. More than 200 people in addition to 100 cancer survivors walked laps around the SUNY Fredonia track at the annual Relay for Life.

Nancy Flitt, co-chair for the event, told participants from noon to midnight, they would be on a “life-changing journey” to celebrate those who are battling cancer or are survivors. Flitt served as co-chair with Michelle Piglowski, a cancer survivor. During the opening ceremonies, she said while all participants have varying reasons for being at Relay for Life, everyone wants to make a difference in the fight against cancer.

“As a community, the steps you take around the track and the money you have raised and continue to raise, enable the American Cancer Society to save lives by helping people with cancer today with the programs and support that they need, finding cancer’s causes and cure through groundbreaking research and access to treatments and screenings for everyone,” Piglowski said.

Marketing and Publicity Chair for the event Kate Hinds Morrison said Relay for Life is special because of the community support. Each Relay for Life held nationally and internationally is unique due to the various communities making it their own.

For this year’s event, Jill Krzyzanowicz served as honorary chair who was diagnosed with cancer last summer. She said she was “truly honored” to be able to share her story and journey with the over 40 teams registered for Saturday’s event.

“If you would have told me a year ago that on June 14, 2014 I would be delivering a speech as a cancer survivor, I would have not believed you,” she said.

Krzyzanowicz has attended the event for many years as a supporter but said she was completely blindsided by her diagnosis of adenoid cystic carcinoma. Doctors at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Cleveland Clinic both were shocked by the rarity of the diagnosis.

“Cancer discriminates against no one and I have watched new-found friends and countless strangers lose their battles against this monster of many faces. I am saddened each and every time I have heard of a new diagnosis,” Krzyzanowicz said.

She hopes to spread awareness and raise funds for cancer research. Although there are many cons to being diagnosed with cancer, Krzyzanowicz said she has found a silver lining. She is now grateful for each new day.

“There are a few privileges that come along with a diagnosis; one of them is a new set of goggles. I am very thankful for mine because I will never take one single day of life for granted again. Tomorrow is never promised, but you can bet your bottom that everyone standing here right now is going to do their part to make tomorrow happen,” Krzyzanowicz said.

This year’s event theme was “A Picture is worth a 1,000 Cures,” and even included the first-ever “selfie” lap. During this lap, teams were encouraged to snap photos of themselves and upload it to social media. Morrison said with social media’s popularity increasing, the event wanted to make a splash online using “selfies” and hashtags across Twitter and Facebook.

“Social media is huge for raising awareness, advocacy and funds,” Hinds Morrison said.

Each team had a tent and sponsored a fundraiser during the event. Most teams had games, a bake sale or a raffle, but the Purple Pride Relay team did something unique – they threw people in jail. The team would take people into “jail” and they would draw a bail amount from a bucket ranging from $0.50 to $10. Each inmate would also have a mugshot taken to be uploaded to their team’s Facebook page at

Last year the team raise $800 with its jail fundraiser. Connor Aitcheson of Dunkirk was the first arrest of the day and he said it was “bittersweet” to be in Relay jail.

“We’re getting some smiles to celebrate more birthdays,” Dan Bolles, team member, said in regard to the mugshots.

A survivor at Saturday’s event, Blanche Bauza, was with the Breast Cancer Support Group. She has been a cancer survivor for 10 years and had cancer affect her family. She said she has been involved with Relay for Life since 2004. Another team at the event was one from Brooks Memorial Hospital. Helene Cribbs and Diane Leone of the team said they believe in Relay for Life and have both been touched by cancer through family members and work.

“It’s a wonderful cause. We need to find a cure to stop (cancer),” said Cribbs. “We need to kick cancer’s booty.”

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