Amherst 's Jog for Jill Raises Awareness, Funds

Hillary Densen '13 is standing up to lung cancer and organizing other student-athletes at Amherst to do the same. Densen is teaming up with her lacrosse teammates and Jill's Legacy, a lung cancer awareness organization, to produce the inaugural Jog for Jill Amherst 5K Walk/Run on Sunday, Oct. 21. Densen hopes the race will raise funds and awareness about a severely underfunded and misrepresented disease, having set a fundraising goal of $15,000. Proceeds from registration fees and donations will go directly to lung cancer awareness and research.

"The Jog for Jills that happen on many college campuses are to honor a 22 year-old college student-athlete named Jillian Costello," Densen explains. "She was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer during her time at UC Berkeley and died a year later. Jill's Legacy is an all-volunteer advisory board to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (BJALCF) that was created to mobilize young people, erase the stigma of lung cancer, and raise money for research."

While Densen is inspired and motivated by Jill's story and the mission of Jill's Legacy, her connection to the cause runs deeper still: her aunt was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in March 2010, despite being a healthy, non-smoking woman all her life.

"Research for this disease is so underfunded because there's a stigma that all people who get lung cancer are smokers who put themselves at risk," Densen explains. "It's just not the case, and it's not just my aunt. There is a huge population of non-smokers who are getting diagnosed with lung cancer. It has the lowest survival rate of most other cancers–15.5%–and has stayed that way for the past forty years due to lack of funding and awareness." When Densen first learned about Jill's Legacy, she knew she had to bring a Jog for Jill event to Amherst. She teamed up with Darby Anderson, who's a board member for Jill's Legacy and was Jill Costello's roommate in college, to organize the event.

"I worked with Hillary to come up with an action plan for organizing a Jog for Jill on her campus," Anderson comments. "Hillary is a part of a larger movement. We've grown tremendously in the past year: in 2011, we had two Jogs for Jill on college campuses. In 2012, we are planning twelve. Priscilla Tyler '15 and Lizzie Paul '16 are two of Densen's teammates who comprise a five-person team that helps her organize the event. The two are also working to establish a culture of community engagement on their own team and in the athletic department as a whole. "Community engagement allows people to be a part of something much bigger than what they experience in their little bubble," Tyler reflects. "Working within your community promotes self-growth, and is a way to do something unselfish to benefit other people; altruism–committing to taking care of the interests of another–is very important to me and my team."

"Working together for a worthy cause off the field is a really good, healthy thing for your team, too," Paul adds.

Anderson believes in the power of young people, especially student-athletes, to make a difference in their communities: "Athletes are leaders on their campuses: if a student-athlete stands up about lung cancer and says, 'This could be me. This could be a teammate. This could be a friend. We need to do something about this,' people will listen."

To register, donate, or get involved with the Jog for Jill on Amherst's campus, visit jogforjillamherst.com. To learn more about Jill's Legacy, visit www.jillslegacy.org.

2012-09-26



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