When Dawn Burkhart was diagnosed with cancer she was 34 years old. Pseudomyxoma peritonea, a disease which impedes organ function and blocks digestion, had taken over her body. Soon after diagnosis Burkhart suffered another devastating blow­— her cancer was terminal. Upon hearing the news, she was upset.

“How dare you tell me I’m going to die,” Burkhart said. “I’m not going to die.”

Burkhart’s treatment was rough. After going through what she calls the “mother of all surgeries” which took her appendix, ovaries, spleen, gallbladder, uterus, part of her colon and lungs and one rib.

Although she still had much to go through, her spirit could not be diminished. Burkhart spent the next few days in recovery planning the tattoo she would get after beating cancer.

Burkhart’s strength embodies the attitude and determination shown by many participating in the Relay for Life of
Boise State.

As of May 1, she will be cancer free for two years. “In case you’re wondering,” Burkhart said. “I did get that tattoo.”

In 1986, 19 teams took part in the first relay, raising $33,000. According to the American Cancer Society,  more than 5,200 Relay for Life events take place across the United States each year investing $130 million annually.

On Friday, April 4, the second annual Boise State Relay for Life kicked off by celebrating victories achieved over cancer. Survivors took the first lap of the night at 8 p.m. and every one of the 372 participants lined the track, cheering them on. As they made their second lap, caregivers join in, followed closely by a train of participants stretching the entire track.

Toward the middle of the night, participants gathered once more around the outside of the track as the names of those who have been lost in the fight over cancer were called.

With each name that was announced, another tear was shed. The participants walked hand-in-hand, arm and shoulder around the track consoling those who recognized the names called.

Although much of the relay focused on those who have fought cancer, participants were encouraged to play games set up at many of the “camp sites” around the gym. The teams continued fundraising by taking part in these activities.

“When we’re here (fundraising) together it’s more fun and competitive,” said Jessica Yount, one of the event
coordinators.

The top on-site fund raising team was the fraternity Alpha Kappa Lambda (AKL). They raised $1,076.59 during the course of the night implementing a jail cell, which forced participants to find more donations before they could exit.

Julia Murray was the top individual fundraiser. She raised $2,535 to donate toward the cause.

The goal this year was to raise $30,000 dollars. At the beginning of the night, event coordinators announced that $23,661.26 had been raised prior to the start of the event.

By the end of the 12 hour event, the goal was met.

Due to the on-site fundraising efforts by all participants, Boise State’s Relay for Life raised more than $7,000, bringing the grand total to $31,350.

The final ceremony of the night ended encouraging everyone to make a pledge to take an extra hour every month to save a life, to celebrate more birthdays and finish the fight against cancer.

For more information about the event, visit Relay for Life’s website.