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I’m just going to come right out and say it: let’s talk about cancer.

Yesterday, in a beautifully-written piece in the New York Times, Angelina Jolie revealed that she had elected to have a double mastectomy, followed by reconstructive breast surgery, to reduce her very high risk of developing breast cancer (also addressing her high risk of ovarian cancer) due to what she called a “faulty” gene (BRCA1) that she carries. Since Angelina’s announcement, everyone has been talking about her, and thus, cancer. Many are feeling inspired by her proactive and positive approach to her health, particularly women who have found themselves in a similar situation. But the thing is, even though Angelina Jolie is a huge celebrity and humanitarian and widely considered to be one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood; even though thousands upon thousands of people admire her and adore her, she is not relatable. At least not to us college students. She’s 37 years old with a family to care for, and odds are we’ll never even be in the same room as her.

It wasn’t until last night that the big C word really hit home with me. I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed only to find that a good friend of mine (who has always been beautiful and selfless and recently donated bone marrow to help save the life of a woman with leukemia) had just been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. At 23 years old. Almost exactly a year to the date of our 2012 college graduation. Ever-positive, she told me that her prognosis was great and it would be easy to treat, and most importantly, that she would get through it. And she’s right, she will get through it. I know she will, and I’m so proud of her for taking this in stride.

You never really know how scary cancer actually is until someone you care about tells you their diagnosis. Then, it’s all you can think about. But maybe that’s a good thing. We should be thinking about cancer (and other scary diagnoses) more and raising awareness! So, in honor of cancer patients, survivors, advocates, and their loved ones, here are the events/organizations that do a wonderful job of standing up to cancer on college campuses.

These colleges are notorious for their highly successful events, raising money and awareness for cancer:

THON @ Penn State

Cancer Awareness - Penn State - THON

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THON, short for dance-a-thon, is a huge annual event at Penn State. Hundreds of students pledge to help fight child cancer by dancing for 46 hours straight. Since the very first one (40 years ago!) the event has raised $89 million dollars, raking in over $10 million just last year. It doesn’t get much better than that!

Dance Blue @ University of Kentucky

Cancer Awareness - Kentucky - Dance Blue

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Another dance-a-thon (obviously), Dance Blue is a hugely successful event at University of Kentucky where students dance for 24 consecutive hours to benefit children with cancer. The event, which first started in 2006, has raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars (and reaching well over $800,000 last year alone!)

NUDM @ Northwesten University

Cancer Awareness - Northwestern - NUDM Dance Marathon

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Dance marathons are clearly a winner when it comes to college charity events! Northwestern University’s Dance Marathon started out 38 years ago with only 15 couples who danced for 52 hours straight, and has evolved into nearly a thousand students dancing for 30 hours in front of thousands of people. (Impressive much?) Last year, the school raised over $1 million for children with cancer. Overall, Northwestern has raised over $13 million!

Relay For Life @ Virginia Tech

Cancer Awareness - Virginia Tech - Relay for Life

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Relay for Life, as most of you already know, is an event that happens on many college campuses (and in several countries!), not just at Virginia Tech. But, we had to give a shout-out to VT because their annual Relay for Life is one of the most successful ones out there! The event, in which participants run/walk to raise awareness for cancer, remember loved ones who died from cancer, and to celebrate survivors, has done very well on VT’s campus. Virginia Tech was the first school to pass $500,000 back in 2009 and has won several awards.

And a few of our favorite organizations that bring cancer advocacy to campus:

Colleges Against Cancer

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Colleges Against Cancer is basically the overarching organization behind Relay for Life participation on college campuses. Students can start their own chapters of CAC on their campuses and bring Relay for Life to life at their school. Go here to find out more (and click here to see how you can get involved!)

Coaches vs. Cancer

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We all know college basketball is huge (we just survived March Madness, after all) so it only makes sense that the NCAA would get involved in raising awareness for cancer! Coaches vs. Cancer, an organization sponsored by the American Cancer Society, is a culmination of several events that raise money and awareness, including basketball tournaments, and other events like Suits & Sneakers Awareness Weekend, Fight Cancer in Style, the Coaches vs. Cancer Golf Invitational, and more. Go here to find out more about this great organization!

Cancer for College


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Cancer for College is a wonderful organization that gives college scholarships to cancer survivors with money raised from a golf tournament. The organization got off to a small start in 1993 (raising only $500) but has since raised nearly 2 million dollars and provided scholarships to over 1,000 cancer survivors. (P.S. It has the Will Ferrell stamp of approval!) You can find out more here on their website.

 How does your school raise awareness?

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