Roberta White was lying awake one night, seeking some way to turn the frustration of watching her father’s losing battle to lung cancer into something with a positive impact, when she remembered Relay for Life.
Her mother had died two decades earlier of lung cancer, and she had been taking care of her father for five years.
“I decided I wanted to put my energies into something that was more positive,” she recalls, adding that organizer Jessica Brookshire helped her start a team.
“I started talking to people and letting them know my reason for doing this. We’ve all been touched by this disease. No matter where you look, there’s a friend, a family member, a colleague.”
White named the team Walking on Sunshine, to reflect the comforting connection
she had long felt between her mother and rainbows, and adopted the slogan “Rallying to turn rain into rainbows.”
The team raised $5,000 in one month three Relays ago, and placed third campus-wide.
“It was quite motivating to see that kind of camaraderie,” White says. “People really do care and want to make a difference, it’s just a matter of asking.”
The money came in hundreds of small chunks—$5 for five minutes of professional in-office massage, $5 for a carry-in soup-and-salad lunch or a sellout Chick-Fil-A special, $2 to wear jeans in the Main Building on dress-down day (although some put $20 bills in the jar).
“It was amazing how people would give,” she says. “We’ve tried to do things that everybody is getting something out of it also.”
Last year, she joined the planning committee and saw the fine-tuned organization that Brookshire has built in the past eight years, earning Brookshire the American Cancer Society Dedication Award this year.
A new initiative this year, the Put Up Your Feet campaign, sells purple feet for $1 each for buildings to display in their windows. Buildings get a star for each 25 feet they sell—incentive to become a “Five Star” building—and some, such as South Dining Hall, the Huddle, the Law School, Building Services, and the Bookstore, have sold 400 or 500.
“Our goal is to create awareness and pave a path of purple all across campus to get to the stadium,” White says. “We believe it has worked, we see feet everywhere.”
The program, along with a promotional letter from President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., to faculty, staff and students, has helped raise Relay awareness on campus.
“There was always a core group of people who were working towards Relay,” she says. “We just didn’t have the awareness campus-wide. This year, we have had incredible feedback. People are really talking about it.”
Photo: From left, David Harr, associate vice president for Auxiliary Operations; Tim Sexton, associate vice president, public affairs; Dave Prentkowski, director of Food Service administration; and John Sejdinaj, vice president for finance.