WESTFORD — Three Westford Academy students have one thing in common — their dedication to ending cancer, one step at a time.
The three students are organizing an event for Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society that is dedicated to “helping communities attack cancer,” according to the organization’s website.
Westford Academy hosts its own Relay for Life club, where students fundraise for cancer research, treatment and outreach. This year, a number of participants will circle the track at Westford Academy to bolster their fundraising efforts.
Students share stories
One student involved in Relay for Life, Ali Pantoja, was diagnosed with cancer in 2020.
“I was diagnosed with [Acute Myeloid] Leukemia in 2020,” Pantoja, a sophomore at Westford Academy and Student Ambassador for Relay for Life told WestfordCAT.
Fortunately, Pantoja says she has “been in remission for two years this June.” She hopes to “give back” the support she received after her diagnosis in 2020.
“When I was in the hospital, I was there for nine months,” she said. “I rarely got to see people when I was there, so I saw how this really impacts families. Being able to do things after to help people is a nice way to give back, like they did for me.”
Pantoja is joined by two of her peers, Sarah Foley and Megan Piendack, who lost her grandmother four years ago.
“I know five people who have been impacted by cancer. One of them was my grandmother, who I was close with,” Piendack, a sophomore at Westford Academy and Student Ambassador for Relay for Life told WestfordCAT. “She died when I was 12 years old.”
Foley, meanwhile, joined to support friends and family.
“I joined to support Ali and my grandmother, who was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2020,” she said.
Organizers seeks support
The students have raised $6,389.27 of their $10,000 goal at the time of reporting. Organizers are anticipating 45 participants, but noted increased interest for walk-in participants.
“We are looking at a significantly higher number [than 45],” Piendack said.
Walk-in participants will be asked to provide a $20 donation to Relay for Life. Participants may also walk a one hour “Memory Mile” on the track for a $5 donation.
The event will be hosted at the Westford Academy Trustees Field and Westford Academy Track on May 13 from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.
“Even if you don’t walk, we encourage people to come hang out for a little bit. It should be fun,” Pantoja said.