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  Avila University spotted at Relay for Life    
  Kansas City, MO    
June 19, 2009

Avila University recently sponsored a team for Relay for Life, the American Cancer Society’s signature fundraising event.

Avila students, staff, alumni, family members and cancer survivors took turns walking from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. at Rockhurst High School and helped raise $78,000 to support the fight against cancer.

“This overnight event empowers everyone to help fight cancer by raising money and awareness,” said Jason Baldwin, director of Student Life. “The atmosphere was fun, empowering and emotional.”

The Avila team showed its spirit by decorating its campsite with a 101 Dalmatians theme, complete with a banner for participants to pay tribute to those who have lost their lives to cancer. Participants were encouraged to write their “101 reasons to spot out cancer.”

“I wanted to experience what others were going through, and I was hoping I could talk to others who have gone through a loss like I have recently,” said Avila University Web Designer Nicole Burkhart. “My grandmother, Joan Novak, was diagnosed with kidney cancer on March 25, 2009, and died on May 8. It was very hard watching the pain my grandma suffered, and there wasn’t anything to cure her cancer. Hopefully, with enough rallies and donations, some day soon they will find a cure to cancer.”

With the overall race theme of 80s, Avila’s team was decked out in legwarmers, cutoff shirts, scrunchies, leggings and wild 80s hair. As part of the Relay for Life competition, Baldwin participated in the Miss Relay Contest. For the contest, male participants dressed up as women and went into the campsites and local businesses to collect donations. Baldwin dressed as Cruella De Vil, complete with red dress, black feather boa and the infamous black and white hair.

“I dressed up as Cruella De Vil as part of a competition to see who could raise the most money and be crowned King/Queen of Relay,” Baldwin said. “Although I didn’t win the competition, I raised more money for cancer research and had fun at the same time.”
While the event was fun and exciting, there was also a somber mood of remembrance for those who lost their battles with cancer. During the night, participants took part in a luminary ceremony. Participants could purchase a luminary with their loved one’s name on it. The luminaries were all set on the edge of the track.

“They shut off the stadium lights so it was pitch dark and everyone walked a lap for their loved ones,” Burkhart said. “I only made it to my grandma’s luminary. It was a very touching way for me to remember my grandma.”

Baldwin said that a big ‘thank you’ goes out to the Avila University community, family and friends for their support of the Avila University team with donations and prayers.
“We greatly appreciate the prayers, donations and support of the Avila University community,” Baldwin said. “By participating, we honored cancer survivors, paid tribute to the lives we've lost to the disease and raised money to help fight cancer right here in our community.”

Team members included Avila University staff members Baldwin, cancer survivor Susan Wulff from counseling services, Assistant Residence Life Coordinator Mindy Kinnaman and Web Designer Nicole Burkhart. Avila students included Mandy Moore, Lauren Couch, Bernadette Weeks, David Fuller, Shawna Downing and Hillary Kerschbaum. Avila family member and friends included Lisa Baldwin, Silas Baldwin, Sage Baldwin, Tami Kiefer, Chelsea Keifer, Mark Wulff, Branden Burkhart, Katelyn Burkhart, Megan Burkhart and Megan Roberts.


Avila University is a private, co-educational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.