Walk-a-thon raises funds and hope

by Sierra Peterson, for The Talon

Not everyone receives a fairy tale ending, but Oklahoma Christian University and Oklahoma Christian Academy are coming together to celebrate life, survival and the continued hope for a cure.

The third annual Relay for Life in honor of Kim Gaither will be held Oct. 3 at Oklahoma Christian’s Vaughn Track. Numerous teams from Oklahoma Christian, Oklahoma Christian Academy and the surrounding community will conduct a 12-hour overnight walk-a-thon.

Relay for Life encourages comfort and lifts up hope to those who have been affected by cancer.

The program brings teams together to promote cancer research, remember those they have lost to the disease and celebrate those who are in remission.

“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a family member or friend who has been affected by cancer,” Student activities coordinator for student life Summer Lashley said.

“This is a time to honor them and do something to help the cause.”

The Oklahoma Christian Relay for Life started in conjunction with Oklahoma Christian Academy in order to honor beloved mother, professor, mentor and friend, Kim Gaither.

“The Oklahoma Christian Academy National Honor Society began this event three years ago after the passing of Kim Gaither,” Oklahoma Christian Academy science teacher Michelle Mallett said. “Brianna [Gaither] was hurting, and after much prayer, together we came up with contacting the American Cancer Society to see what we could do to honor her mom and help others in their fight with cancer.”

Oklahoma Christian and Oklahoma Christian Academy want to bring hope into the lives of those around them and do everything they can to help find a cure.

The more money raised, the more lives will be saved.

A great deal of the funds raised for the cause of a cure are very often done so as a direct result of events,  such as the relay, at universities and colleges.

“Relay money is a large part of the research money given to universities and private research facilities around the U.S.,” Mallett said. “Anything to stop cancer and not have another person hear the words, ‘You have cancer’ and be fearful of death.”

Approximately 300 people participated in the 2007 Relay for Life, and organizers expect the number to grow this year. Teams of eight to 16 people will take turns walking all night with a member on the track at all times.

Oklahoma Christian social service clubs, athletic teams and students have created their own teams who will participate and have also hosted events in order to raise more money for the fight against cancer, as well as remember those they have lost in the battle.

“I know one guy, at least in our club, had cancer, and we dealt with that,” Kappa Sigma Tau social service director Brice Oliver said. “[Relay for Life] is for everyone because cancer is something that everyone has had to deal with.”

The event not only raises money for the cause of creating a cure for cancer, but it also gives participants the opportunities to build new relationships and rekindle old ones.

“When I went I saw a lot of alumni that I haven’t seen in years, and I walked around the track with them,” Lashley said.  “We got to catch up on our lives.”

In addition to the walk, performances, food and activities will be part of the activities in the relay event.

“They had Summer Singers playing, a Wii going and they had food grilling [last year],” Hayley Jones, sophomore and 2007 Relay for Life participant, said. “We just kind of hung out, met new people and walked with other groups.”

Relay for Life can touch the hearts of all involved. A special candle-lighting is held each relay to honor those who have lost the battle with cancer.

The thoughtful way of remembering those who have fallen victim to the disease created a profound affect on those who attended the relay, as well as adding to the specific purpose of the event.

“The candle ceremony was really neat,” Jones said. “They put candles in bags with sand in them and kept them lit all night long. The bags had [the] people’s names on them who had died from cancer.”

Students are still able to sign up to donate or walk in the Relay for Life. A $10 fee, which goes to cancer research, is all it takes to become involved.  Students can form their own teams or come and support those participating.

For more information on joining or donating to Relay for Life, contact Summer Lashley at summer.lashley@oc.edu or Michelle Mallett at mmallett@ocacademy.com or by phone at 405-844-6478.

“It is a great way to stop and take some time to reflect on the people who you are walking for and especially Dr. Gaither,” Lashley said. “I think it brings unity to campus with a common purpose and a common goal. Anything that brings us together to serve for a greater good is definitely something we want to be a part of.”


To learn more about the Kim Gaither Memorial Endowment, click here.