Relay for Life fundraising to top $1 million

Author: Carol C. Bradley and Gene Stowe

The Notre Dame Fire Department (the "Fire Fighting Irish") has been the top fundraising team three years in a row

The 2013 ND Relay for Life takes place 6 p.m. Friday, April 12, through 9 a.m. Saturday, April 13, at a new location—the Compton Family Ice Arena. It’s a chance for the campus and community to come together to raise funds for cancer research, benefiting the American Cancer Society. It’s not too late to register a team, or support Relay by participating in one of many campus fundraising events. Visit relay.org/ndin.

Family-friendly activities during the overnight event include an open skate, inflatables, cookie decorating, face painting and balloon twisters. There will also be a silent auction, live musical performers and a broomball tournament, in addition to team fundraisers and activities. To date, 49 teams and 303 participants have already raised $56,583.40. This year, funds raised during Relay, over the course of the University’s nine years of participation, are likely to exceed $1 million.

Honorary chairpersons are Marc Burdell ’87, director of alumni programs for the Alumni Association and survivor of follicular leukemic lymphoma, and Teresa Kennedy, Ryan Hall freshman and survivor of dermatofibrosarcoma.

Teresa Kenendy and Marc Burdell, honorary chairpeople of the 2013 ND Relay for Life, in front of the Cancer Survivor and Awareness Tree north of the Eck Visitors Center

Marc Burdell: ‘A true Notre Dame story’

In September 2009, severe stomach pains led Marc Burdell to the emergency room. Sedated for a CT scan, he woke up and a doctor was standing by his bed. “You have cancer, and I’m your new oncologist,” the doctor said.

Burdell was diagnosed with follicular leukemic lymphoma, a very treatable kind of cancer, he was told at the Mayo Clinic.

During the course of his illness, alumni physicians called him, or stopped by his office on football weekends to discuss physicians and treatments. "One took an hour and 10 minutes to talk to me on the phone at home, late at night,” Burdell recalls.

From the beginning of his treatment, he had the support of other alumni, his team and University Relations. A Healing Mass for him was held at Dillon Hall, and a group of colleagues gathered every week at the Grotto to pray the rosary for him.

Not long after he completed the prescribed course of treatment, he got a call while on the golf course—the cancer was in remission.

“Your Notre Dame prayers must have worked,” his Mayo Clinic doctor told him later.

Teresa Kennedy: Involved with Relay since eighth grade

Teresa Kennedy was in eighth grade when doctors discovered a rare type of soft tissue cancer, dermatofibrosarcoma, that had been growing in her right leg for at least seven years. Surgery successfully cleared her of the cancer.

“They took everything out,” she recalls. “I was in bed for a couple of weeks. By the spring, I was back to running around and playing lacrosse. I got the clean bill of health when I was in 11th grade. That was pretty good news.”

All through high school, Kennedy volunteered with Relay for Life in her hometown of Wilbraham, Mass.—team captain, committee member, event chair. This year, as a Notre Dame freshman pursuing a Peace Studies major, she’s the student honorary chairperson for Relay for Life on campus.

“I started getting involved when I was in eighth grade,” she says. “This is going to be my sixth Relay for Life. We’re meant to be the faces of Relay for Life. We’re in charge of promoting it and making sure that people know about Relay.

“I figure it’s one way I can help people though my experience. I see it now as an opportunity I’ve been given. I’ve gotten past it. I like to talk to other people who haven’t gotten past it or still need support.”