More than 1,230 people from Story County united at Relay for Life for 12 hours on Saturday.

Leslie Berg, a cancer survivor, was the honorary survivor Friday night at Iowa State’s Relay for Life.

On Jan. 11, at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, cancer survivor Berg and her Above and Beyond Cancer group hosted the highest elevation Relay for Life.

“Often, survivors compare their journey to that of climbing a mountain. I can now relate to that analogy first hand,” Berg said.

Berg was diagnosed with abdominal cancer in 2001 [corrected from: when she was about 10 years old]. In 2003, [corrected from: A year and a half after being told she had defeated the disease] after being told she had defeated the disease, she was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia, which she continues to battle today.

At the beginning of Friday’s event, Berg told the story about her climb of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa with the group Above and Beyond Cancer. According to the organization’s website, the group plans trips for cancer survivors and caregivers that are strategically designed to energize and inspire the public while providing context for the participants’ cancer advocacy work.

The Lied Recreation Athletic Center was filled with people who had similar stories of how Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society has helped those lives that have been affected by cancer.

Relay for Life is an event where people from all walks of life come together to raise cancer awareness. Participants have the opportunity to show their support for those who are battling cancer, celebrate those who have defeated the disease and remember the ones who they have lost to the battle of cancer.

“I lost a close friend to leukemia in high school when I was 16. The American Cancer Society really helped his family,” said Sponsorship Chairman Tim Sheets, senior in civil engineering.

While everyone at the event was there for a common cause, each individual had their own personal reason as to why they relay.

“I relay for friends and family. I lost my friend of 14 years, Andy, when I was 15. My aunt is a breast cancer survivor,” said Kaitlin Reimnitz, senior in psychology.

This year the theme of the event was "Survivor: Outwit, Outplay and Outlast cancer." In coordination with the theme, there was a designated area called Exile Island where participants could pay to “exile” another participant for up to 30 minutes. 

“Since our theme was 'Survivor' this year, we decided to give [the cancer survivors] bandanas to wear. We always give them a meal, gift baskets and write them a personal note,” said survivorship chair Laura Hoaglund, senior in meteorology.

Co-President Ashley Yingst, senior in genetics, will be attending Des Moines University next year for pancreatic cancer research with the hope that one day cancer will not exist.

“As a genetics major I understand the prevalence of cancer," Yingst said. "It’s non-discriminating.”

Entertainment for participants included a coloring table, an educational booth, face painting, inflatables and a photo booth. Individuals who raised over $250 received access to the VIP lounge that provided Subway sandwiches, snacks and a gaming system. The survivors also had a designated area.

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