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Relay for Life participants raised more than $120,000

Elizabeth Arditti, an ovarian cancer survivor, speaks to hundreds of onlooking students, survivors, and friends before the Luminary Ceremony.
Elizabeth Arditti, an ovarian cancer survivor, speaks to hundreds of onlooking students, survivors, and friends before the Luminary Ceremony.

She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer during the pregnancy of her fourth child, after a scheduled ultrasound revealed an unknown mass.

The news she received in 2000 defied those odds.

“I was the one, not the 7,999,” Arditti said.

“A lot of us would have said, ‘Why me?,’ but I decided to rephrase the question... ‘Why not me? How can I use this experience for good?’”

Arditti was the luminary speaker for this year’s Relay for Life, which had 1,325 participants, raising more than $120,000 for the American Cancer Society.

Sophomore Alex Arditti , chairman of corporate sponsorships for Relay for Life, was able to hear his mother speak about her experience having cancer.

“It was a really challenging time for her in her life and hearing her speak is always special,” Alex Arditti said, who was in elementary school when his mother was diagnosed.

“She is the reason that I relay.”

Co-director of UNC’s Relay for Life, Will Yokeley, said the donation period is not over yet.

“Usually, Relay is later in the semester but due to conflicting schedules with lacrosse and track and field, we had to push the date up,” Yokeley said.

“We kinda had to push harder to get all of our donations in by this event because it is tough to get people fundraise after the event is over, but our goal for the end of April is $150,000.”

He said almost everyone who participated in the event has a direct link to cancer, whether through a loved one or a friend or if they themselves have fought the disease.

For Yokeley, it was his little sister who died of cancer when she was 13.

“When I came to UNC, Relay seemed like the perfect thing for me to get involved with because it is a great chance to help people with cancer and make an impact with all of the money we raise every year.”

For the first time in Yokeley’s time at UNC, the event was entirely indoors due to the weather, but he said that did not quell the spirits of the students and community members in attendance.

There were performances from step teams, multiple on-campus musical groups and, for the first time ever performing at Relay for Life, an alternative rock cover band called Mr. Fred, with their namesake coming from a security guard who works at Woollen Gymnasium.

There were also volunteers who had Google Glass, which they allowed participants to borrow to film their laps around the makeshift track and the live performances from unique perspectives.

Senior Chelsea Kutner raised the most money of all the participants, with more than $14,000.

She has participated every year she has been at UNC and said the time spent at Relay for Life is worth it for the luminary ceremony.

“The main purpose of the ceremony is to remember and honor the people that do have cancer... For me, that is my grandmother who passed away from brain cancer when I was six,” Kutner said.

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While many stories of participants ended with the loss of a loved one, Elizabeth Arditti’s story provided inspiration to newly-diagnosed people, as both she and her youngest son survived the cancer.

“We named him Joshua because it means ‘the one who saves,’” Elizabeth Arditti said.

“And I truly believe Joshua saved my life.”