For the third consecutive year, teams affiliated with the Graduate School out-raised all other groups at Virginia Tech's Relay For Life held Friday, April 9, on the university's Drillfield.

The 14 collective Graduate School teams, referred to as a “company,” raised $27,498 for the battle against cancer.

“Our graduate community is affected by cancer at all levels and stages of life. Seeing graduate students and organizations increasingly get involved with the broader Virginia Tech community is truly inspirational and shows our solidarity,” says Kristin Canavera, a graduate student, and graduate chair of the 2010 Virginia Tech Relay For Life.

The event represents the largest collegiate fundraiser for Relay For Life in the United States with more than 6,200 participants. Virginia Tech is the first campus to reach the $500,000 goal for two consecutive years. The collective Virginia Tech contribution for 2010 is $543,000. Virginia Tech has raised more than $2 million since its first Relay For Life in 2001.

This fundraising milestone is particularly meaningful for Canavera and Paul Stevens. Canavera is a third year Ph.D. student in clinical psychology in the Department of Psychology in the College of Science, and a nationally ranked fundraiser for Relay For Life. In 2007 Canavera’s father, David Canavera was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, four months after she began Ph.D. studies.

Canavera says she chose to leave Virginia Tech and return home to become her father’s primary caregiver until his death in May 2008. Since returning to Virginia Tech to resume her studies, Canavera has raised more than $22,000, all dedicated to her father. Participating beyond fundraising, she also lobbied members of the U. S. Congress to increase federal funding for cancer research.

For Stevens, a 2008 master of science graduate in horticulture from the Department of Horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and an instructor in biology, Relay For Life is also very personal. Stevens was diagnosed with multiple myeloma during his Thanksgiving vacation in 2009. The 26-year-old Stevens spoke from Friday night’s main stage to participants of Relay For Life about his struggle with cancer and his life priorities.

“Faith, family, friends, and fun are the four main things that I believe can get you through any trial, and have helped me in dealing with my cancer battle,” said Stevens.

Stevens, along with his parents and volunteers, managed bone marrow testing during Relay For Life in the hopes of registering as many as possible for the National Bone Marrow Registry. First stage testing includes a series of four cheek swabs, while second stage testing includes the examination of blood samples. According to Stevens, 225 people were registered Friday night, and 891 were registered at an earlier Virginia Tech event in February. Possible matches have now been found for Stevens, although second stage testing is not yet completed.

“The success of Relay For Life is a wonderful example of what dedicated graduate students can do, and the positive momentum that comes from a successful graduate community,” says Karen P. DePauw, vice president and dean of graduate education at Virginia Tech.

The 2010 Graduate School Company is comprised of the following organizations: Black Graduate Student Organization, Communication Graduate Student Association, Bio-Medical and Veterinary Sciences Graduate Student Association (two teams), Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (two teams), Marketing Graduate Students, Agricultural and Applied Economics Graduate Student Association, Biology Graduate Student Organization, Graduate Students for Hope, English Graduate Students, Political Science Graduate Students, Virginia Tech MBAs, and the Department of Animal and Poultry Science Graduate Student Association.

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