Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Esta Faye - a mother, a grandmother, a radiant smile, an inspiration, an independent woman, and a fighter. Although I do not remember all of the details, I do remember the time spent with her - always surrounded by her joyful nature - whenever I visited her house at the beach in Charleston, SC. From encouraging my unhealthy obsession with Play-doh and Thomas the Tank Engine to  trying to teach me Chinese checkers. From trips to the zoo to trying to the hand-stitched-applique quilt of my family members, which now - 14 years later - I still have. But I learned all too quickly about the bittersweet aspect of life.  In October 1994, 5 months before I was born, she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

5 years later, in November  of 1999, the cancer returned. To a kindergartener, the concept of cancer is complex. Two years later, on March 25, 2001, I lost my grandmother. At the funeral, I remember my mom telling me it was okay to cry at the funeral. I remember watching all of the adults cry except for me. I had no emotional understanding of what cancer had done.  I remember that of all the things to be upset about, my 6-year-old self was devastated that I had lost my perfect attendance at school. I was too young, as far too many of us are when we lose a grandparent to cancer, to understand the true impact of what had been lost by me and my family.

But as I have grown older, there is one loss that stands out the most: time. Time, I missed out on making memories that my siblings have of spending summers in Myrtle Beach with Nanny. All the inside jokes Sarah and Nanny had - like when they told people they were going outside to drink by the woodpile. The time where she peed her pants in terror after a parrot in a beach convenience store talked to her. Or the terrible fishing accident in which my sister Judy’s hook attached to her shirt, ripping it off.  I remember my grandmother second-hand through my older siblings; I have their memories of laughter and joy, and I try to take their memories as my own. But it falls short of what I deserve to know about her.

But, I believe nanny would be proud, for we have never forgotten her love and her humour. The latter in which I wish I could have experienced with maturity, but I share this obsession with nanny’s favorite holiday movie, actually I obsess over it year round, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. As Clark Griswold says,  “We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here.” The time has come that when cancer comes knocking at our door that it encounters “the jolliest bunch of assholes” because we can finally beat cancer and get right back to making memories.

Right now, I am ready to end this epidemic that removed a fearless woman. Despite being dragged through a storm twice, she empowered us to live with never ending hope and to never back down. So now, I Relay. I Relay so that my kids will have their own memories of their grandmother instead of having to rely on second-hand stories. They deserve the time to make the memories. I Relay for breast cancer free lifestyles in Esta’s five beautiful daughters and granddaughters. I Relay for my cousins and their children, so they can experience more of Esta’s love through their beautiful mothers and grandmothers. I Relay because cancer can’t take the love and memories of our loved ones, and we should not allow it to take it from children.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

HOOS Gonna Be Your Date?

What could be better than fighting cancer while spending some one-on-one time with your favorite UVA celebrities? If you can't think of anything better (or just want a fun Thursday night), then we have the perfect event for you!

Relay for Life at UVA is hosting their first ever DATE AUCTION at BOYLAN HEIGHTS from 9:30 PM to 12 AM this THURSDAY (February 26th). Come out (with your wallet) and bid for a chance to win a "date" with your favorite Hoo!

Worried that your favorite UVA celebrity will not be available for auction? We have rounded up the best of the best at UVA, and we guarantee that you can find the perfect match for you! We are auctioning off everything from a dinner date with Newcomb's lovely Miss Kathy, to a pick-up game with your favorite first-year basketball players (eligible dates include Jack Salt, Isaiah Wilkins, BJ Stith, and Marial Shayok), and everything in between. Other dates include: a dinner date with the Virginia Belles, an opportunity to be serenaded by the Hullabahoos, a pick-up game/or lesson with Darion Atkins, an Arch's date with Anthony Harris, or a group date with the national champions themselves, the UVA Men's Varsity Soccer Team!

Not sure that you're ready to take on a date? You can still support the fight against cancer by eating at Boylan anytime after 5 PM on Thursday! Just be sure to give a shout-out to your server to ensure 10% of the proceeds from food sales goes to Relay for Life.

We would Relay love to see you there to help us finish the fight!

 With RelayLove,
Emily Smith and the Publicity Committee

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

“When life kicks you, let it kick you forward.”

As a Hoo, I LOVE Tony Bennett. I am pretty sure it is an obligatory part of being a University of Virginia student. He not only does a fantastic job of coaching his team – physically, mentally, and emotionally – but he is also a great person both on and off the court supporting his players, fans, family, and entire Charlottesville community.
However, this week Relay For Life at UVA would like to honor another individual who had a similar impact, Kay Yow. As Joanne Boyle, the head coach of the UVA’s Women’s basketball team, frames it, “ Kay Yow laid the foundation and groundwork for all of us in the spirit of Women’s Basketball.”
This Sunday at 1 pm our Women’s Basketball Team and Head Coach, Joanne Boyle, bring to you and the community, the Play 4 Kay Game giving us the incredible opportunity to connect our passion for the fight against cancer with the Play 4 Kay foundation.
So hoo was Kay Yow? A student at East Carolina University. A sister of the Delta Zeta sorority. A coach of the women’s basketball team at Elon University. A coach of the women’s basketball team at NC State. The coach of the 1987 Olympic Gold Medal US Women’s Basketball team. A coach who won 737 games in her 34 years of coaching the NC State Wolfpack.  A member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. And a fighter – someone who fought breast cancer not once, not twice, but three times.  She lost her battle on January 24th, 2009. But that is far from the end of Kay’s story.

Within every community she was a part of, Kay was known for her positive influence and goal to constantly give back and be a part of the bigger picture - from her team to the student fans to the university community at large. She did this all while facing her own battle with cancer. After being diagnosed for the 3rd time, she founded the Kay Yow Cancer Fund in December of 2007.  The Kay Yow Cancer Fund is a collaboration of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and V Foundation that is committed to fundraising for and raising awareness of the fight against women’s cancer. The main goal of the Fund is to help raise money for research that focuses on experimental drugs - a field that although funded almost completely privately, can have some of the biggest impacts and has made a fair number of breakthroughs in the search for a cure.
So whether you Relay for yourself, your mom, your sister, your aunt, your grandmother, your family friend, for anyone at all, come out Sunday, February 15th. Show your support, not only for your favorite women’s basketball in the ACC, but also to stand up against cancer, just as Kay has so courageously done.
"Now you know realistically, in the game you’re playing and in this fight, you know you may not win…but somehow your mindset won’t let you give up until that final buzzer goes off. Because you’re still calling timeouts and the people in the stands are wondering, ‘Why are they still calling timeouts?’ Because you still believe" - Coach Kay Yow

Relay Love, Maria Wnorowski and the Publicity Committee

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Experiencing the atmosphere of my first Relay For Life event was when I first truly looked back on my own understanding of cancer. Relay for me all began as a team-bonding event and quickly turned into a cause I would be passionate about until this very day. The Luminaria ceremony, and every lap after, brought forth memories I had never really put a lot of thought into. For those of you who have never participated in a Luminaria ceremony it is one of the most powerful experiences you can imagine.  The light of hundreds of candles lined up around the track and remembering and honoring those who have been affected by cancer makes you consider your own personal experiences while at the same time motivating you to make a difference.  My first Luminaria ceremony made me realize I never really understood my first encounter with cancer; nor had I ever considered the effects it has had on me, and my family, every day since.

I was about 7 or 8 years old when my Uncle Lai was diagnosed with lung cancer around 2001.  As young kids, my siblings and I couldn’t really comprehend what cancer was, nor what was going on within our family.  

Growing up in northern Virginia my maternal family was blessed to live relatively close to one another and to our grandparents.  I remember always seeing them, whether it was for a birthday, a holiday, lunch, or an impromptu gathering we would see all our aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents at least twice a month – if not more. And at every single one of these gatherings my siblings and I would always kiss our aunts, uncles, and grandparents on the cheek upon arrival and prior to leaving.  I don’t remember when exactly my Uncle was diagnosed with lung cancer, nor the conversation when my parents described the situation to us, but at every family gathering after that I remember him getting worse and worse.  The only way I can describe the feelings of my childhood self was that he was slowly deteriorating and I was scared to be near him.  To this day all I can feel is a sense of shame for the way I felt and for being scared to approach him.  Even though I was young at the time, I will never be able to overcome the embarrassment I feel for having that sense of fear. 

I don’t remember the day Uncle Lai lost his battle with cancer but I clearly remember the impact it had on my family.  My Uncle was the father to three wonderful kids, and three wonderful cousins – two older girls, Helen and Lanna, and one younger boy, Sean. I remember the effects of my Uncle’s passing most prominently on my cousin Sean, my younger brother Ben, and my own immediate family.  Ben and Sean were only a year apart and shared the common identity of being the youngest and only boys in families of older sisters.  That commonality, coupled with the passing of my Uncle made them closer than cousins, they became brothers – he became our brother. 

Uncle Lai’s passing changed the dynamic of our family.  So much so that I can no longer remember a time when Sean wasn’t constantly involved in our own family activities. Sean and Ben would hang out all the time, taking turns staying over at our house or my Aunt’s house, going out to dinner with us, or tagging along on other family outings.  We were all very young then but I remember our parents, my twin sister, and I worrying about Sean growing up without his dad.  Sometimes we could see him having trouble when he was with us so we went to even greater lengths to include him in things or keep him busy. My own parents encouraged him to give soccer and Boy Scouts a try, and of course, Ben and Sean did everything together.

Growing up would not have been the same without Sean. He knows our family inside and out and he’s been there for all the ups and downs. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that Sean and his sisters should not have had to grow up without their dad. Even though Uncle Lai may not be with us here today, we know he’s always watching over us as our family continues to grow.    

I firmly believe everything happens for a reason. Were it not for my Uncle’s passing and the profound effect it had on my family I would not be as passionate as I am about Relay today. His passing has been a constant reminder that each day is a blessing – a blessing that a lot of us forget about sometimes.  Seeing the effects of cancer on my own life, and how it impacts all those bravely fighting this disease each and every day, is a constant reminder of how lucky many of us are to be here, living the lives we live.

Throughout the years I’ve seen how cancer has affected my own family and the wider communities I am a part of. But I have also seen the positive difference the American Cancer Society and organizations like Relay For Life have made. Relay For Life and the ACS have shown me how simple it is to make a difference in the life of someone affected by cancer; not only giving them support and a greater chance of beating this terrible disease, but giving them Hope. 

I Relay for my family and for all those fighting to keep their families whole. I Relay so that no child should ever have to be scared of someone battling cancer. I Relay because all children deserve to grow up with their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, and friends. I Relay because my actions can make a difference, even if it’s just one more smile, one more ray of Hope, in the fight against cancer.  

Live each day to the fullest and never forget that you can make a difference – no matter what it is or how small it may be, it means the world to someone out there.

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