Gathering for cancer research creates change, fosters community

Illustration of pink ribbon and people
Alexander Hong/Senior Staff

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On Oct. 26, in the early hours of the morning, a crowd gathered in Berkeley to support the American Cancer Society, or ACS. Amid the waving banners and throngs of people, stories of survival and endurance floated through the air. It was a little past 9 a.m., and an amazing volunteer had just gotten onstage, singing an anthem to the audience, including many cancer survivors. The crowd numbered well into the thousands, forming a sea of pink as teams, families and friends congregated together. All of them gathered to do one thing: rally to raise awareness about how deep and impactful cancer can be and how everyone can help to stop it. This kind of coordinated action both directly combats the disease with fundraising and fosters a sense of community for those affected.

At the beautiful Berkeley Marina, the Making Strides of San Francisco Bay Area walk provided a clear view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city on the horizon. Stands lined the field, as sponsors gave out T-shirts, food and prizes for various little games that dotted the field. Stomper, mascot of the Oakland A’s, stomped around, high-fiving kids and snapping pictures. The survivor booth provided food to the survivors of cancer in recognition of them.

As 10 a.m. approached, people started congregating near the starting point. The clock struck, the announcement was made and people started walking underneath the giant starting point. Cheers rose from the gathered, as they began their scenic three-mile trek. What is most impressive about the crowd, however, is the sheer amount of money it had raised by this point. Now, that number has reached $175,027. Six figures.

And the number continues to rise, as the money comes in from members from all walks of life. In a strange way, the amount of money donated by many people is, in many ways, a parallel to cancer itself. Cancer does not discriminate, affecting people no matter their status in life. It becomes crucial that people from all walks of life join the cause and help fund further research that can truly save lives on a large scale. Coming together to celebrate and raise money builds community across normal boundaries of class to advance the fight for a cure.

Among the cheering crowd, talking to Megan Sorensen, a lead community development manager, she revealed that she joined ACS because “feeling like you can give back to your community through your employment is a very exciting opportunity” simply because of how many people have been touched by cancer. Following up on this point, Lucy Holmes-Higgin, the lead contact for the event, believes that the people there on that day were there because they knew the suffering that came from cancer, and they truly represented the constituency and amount of people that truly cared about the issue.

Raising awareness across the survivor booth for the issue is the sister organization of ACS: ACS Cancer Action Network, or ACS CAN. As a nonpartisan lobbyist group, ACS CAN works with governmental groups on all levels. It works on making drugs affordable, fighting for a better quality of life, pain relief, regulation of tobacco products, etc. Successes come through reduction in teen smoking, a 26% decrease in cancer rates and 18 million people with access to more affordable health care. Talking to David Bonfilio, a volunteer for ACS, I came to understand the sheer, hidden, large-scale undertaking ACS CAN has worked through. In fact, he gave me an example of someone sitting right across us. A kind, elderly woman had been going through cancer, facing multiple remissions after each “success.” Each and every time, she had been reliant on the support and advocacy of ACS CAN.

If you would like to get further involved, please refer to the Making Strides of San Francisco Bay Area event website and learn how you can become involved with ACS.

I know that for me, ACS has made a definite impact. One of my friends was deeply affected by the disease in his early high school career, and seeing him go through the pain and suffering made me feel absolutely helpless. Learning about ACS and its role in helping people afflicted with this disease inspired me to participate in the cause, however.

Getting involved with ACS is an amazing opportunity for people to help raise a tremendous amount of support and awareness for the various different cures and methods of helping people with cancer. Every single volunteer and donation helps save countless lives, and in a world with more than enough problems, every life saved is a true victory. With the large network and simply the amount of people involved, every person who joins helps spread the amazing effects further and further. Through this, joining ACS in any capacity will not only make an amazing opportunity for self-growth but will also help save the lives of many people who have cancer.

Atharva Palande is a campus freshman intending to major in economics.