UA Health Sciences Cancer Challenge combines athleticism and altruism to support the Arizona Cancer Center

 UA Health Sciences Cancer Challenge combines athleticism and altruism to support the Arizona Cancer Center

December 12, 2008
Contact: Marisa Allen at (520) 626-7177

As if attending the Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy weren't difficult enough, a dedicated group of University of Arizona Health Sciences students decided to take on an additional challenge: run a half marathon and raise funds for cancer research. On Dec. 7 they were successful as 115 students crossed the finish line at the Tucson Half Marathon and raised more than $2,000 for the Arizona Cancer Center.

Medical student Chris Piercecchi wanted to see his first-year medical class leave a legacy for future students to follow. He founded Student Athletes for Community Outreach (SACO) and challenged his fellow health sciences students to the 2008 Cancer Challenge. He says he chose the Tucson Half Marathon as the team goal because “it provided the perfect challenge. The training is manageable with our busy school schedules, but the distance is far enough to challenge our bodies physically. I wanted my classmates to go beyond their comfort level. Cancer patients going through chemotherapy and other treatments must face that everyday. I figured we should show our solidarity by pushing ourselves to go the distance.”

Piercecchi says he and the other SACO participants chose the Arizona Cancer Center (ACC) as the recipient of their fundraising because of the “excellent work in research and prevention.” He soon partnered with the Better Than Ever (BTE) program at the ACC because of their similar goals.

“It seemed like a perfect fit,” says BTE Program Coordinator Marisa Allen. “SACO's goals fit right along with our goal to prevent cancer through exercise while raising funds for cancer research.”

Allen also liked the idea of partnering with SACO because it opened the program to more UA students. “We worked with SACO to offer fundraising and organizational support.  We also came together for a pre-race pasta party on Saturday to gear up for the half marathon. It was great to see so many students cross the finish line at the half marathon,” she said. 
SACO students met three days a week to run together and support each other through the semester.  Each school had a team captain to take the lead and help the students with training. Most participants did their own individual fundraising, but they also received help from classmates not participating in the half marathon, but who wanted to help in the cancer fight.  They held multiple restaurant fundraisers and bake sales, and asked local businesses and community members for help.