In 2011, sophomore English major Rachel Roberson’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. For her and her siblings, they remember getting out of school early on Wednesdays and doing fun activities with their mother–but Wednesdays were also the days their mother would often receive treatment.
For the next four years, the times were difficult, Roberson said. At the time, her family was living in a small suburb of Seattle. Her mother’s extended family would come to visit her from the East Coast.
“It did definitely shape me growing up because there were those times where she was in the hospital or she was really sick,” she said. “But it brought my family a lot closer.”
These are the moments Roberson shares with the USC Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) club at their meetings. They go around the room and share why they participate in Relay for Life, a nation-wide network of community marathons sponsored by the American Cancer Society to help raise money for cancer awareness and research.
“It was really special for me because [my mom] was able to attend my first relay,” Roberson said. “She even chaperoned my team and stayed all night with us. She passed that summer, in 2015. I relay for her and the community I’ve built.”
Roberson is the vice president of CAC. Since the second week of fall semester, CAC has been hosting numerous food sales like Cookies Against Cancer, a weekly fundraiser in front of Bovard selling cookies for $1.
The Cookies Against Cancer fundraiser began just before the school year started. CAC President Nick Wrobleski approached his manager at Nature’s Brew, a cafe located just outside the USC campus, and asked if he could take the leftover cookies to sell on campus to fundraise for the club.
“It’s a great way to get people’s attention, just having a box of cookies,” Wrobleski said.
The senior psychology major picks up the cookies on Sunday or Monday nights for the sale on Tuesday. Any leftover cookies he brings to sell in his classes. His classmates have come to expect him to have cookies, helping him raise almost $200 in his sales alone.
“People in my classes say, ‘Nick, where are the cookies? I have cash.’ I have to bring them everywhere now,” he said.
Often times, the cookies lure in passers-by, who then donate more than $1. All proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society to fund cancer research and patient support programs that provides transportation and housing for patients while they undergo treatment.
“We plan to do this as long as we get donations, for the rest of the school year or until the relay,” he said.
Nation-wide, relays have been shutting down and combining because it’s been getting harder to allocate resources and get people’s attention, according to Wrobleski.
“We rely heavily on philanthropy and there’s a lot of organizations already donating to somewhere," he said.
Despite the obstacles, the club’s goal is to raise $50,000 in donations. Though Wrobleski describes the goal as ambitious, it’s only half of what the club has raised in previous years. Since the club began in the early 2000s, they often donated well over $100,000 a school-year. He attributes the decline in fundraising to a drop in membership over the years.
"I know we can reach our goal and I’m looking forward to USC becoming a partner in the fight against cancer like it used to be,” he said.
Wrobleski was inspired to participate in the fight against cancer after three of his grandparents died as a result of smoking.
When he first came to USC, he dreamed of becoming an oncologist before switching his major. He now chooses to participate as an advocate rather than a professional, he said.
So far, the club has raised almost $1,000 from fundraising. When they hosted their Boba for Boobies, a sale of boba tea drinks in front of Tommy Trojan on Oct. 14, they sold out within an hour. But so far, their most popular fundraising event is their weekend night quesadilla sales. The club sets up a booth with quesadillas, brownies and drinks from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Greek Row.
“It’s a great way to increase our visibility and reach a different audience,” Roberson said.
CAC will be hosting its annual Relay for Life beginning at 10 a.m. March 28, 2020 in McCarthy Quad. The event theme is based on “The Great Gatsby” and the 1920s.