Shannon Levante, a recent Arizona State University graduate and Alumna of the Pi Zeta Chapter of Delta Zeta Sorority, is the current Community Relationship Manager at the American Cancer Society. During her time at ASU, Levante served as the Relay for Life Executive Director for two years. Right now, The American Cancer Society’s signature event, Relay for Life, is the number one fundraising event in the world. As Relay for Life approaches, Levante reflects on her experience with the event and her sister’s battle with cancer .
Q. Can you describe your history with Delta Zeta as well as the Relay for Life event?
A. My life as a Delta Zeta started in Fall 2008 as a Freshman. I was an active member for my four years at ASU and I could not have asked for a better experience. I became more involved as a sophomore when I was encouraged by an older member to represent Delta Zeta as a Greek Week Director. Not knowing too much about the logistics and planning of Greek Week, I was a little hesitant, but I found comfort in being the lead director of Greek Week for Relay for Life. I worked very closely with the Executive Director of Relay for Life at ASU to assure that Greek Life had all the updates needed to be successful and we were living up to Relay for Life’s expectations for us as a Greek community. As a junior I was asked to be the Assistant Executive Director of Relay for Life. In Fall 2010, I was also the VP of Programming for Delta Zeta. In Spring 2011, I was promoted to Executive Director of Relay for Life and held the position in my Senior year as well. In my two years of term, I worked with about 15-25 volunteers each year to put on extremely successful, growing events. In my two year term, we brought in $150,000 in 2011 and $180,000 in 2012 for the American Cancer Society and was ranked number 12 in the top 25 collegiate relays in the Nation.
Q. What made you initially want to get involved with the Relay for Life event?
A. I got involved with Relay for Life thanks to my friends in high school and my involvement in their Pink Ribbon Club for Breast Cancer Awareness. My first year relaying was my senior year of high school in 2008, where we honored my twin sister, Tracy, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2006. Tracy was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer, Acinic Cell Carcinoma, when we were 16. With one surgery, removing her salivary gland, where the tumor was, she was cancer free. She is the big reason why I am still relaying today and now work for the American Cancer Society.
Q. How did your sister’s battle with cancer affect you and your family?
A. When we first found out, we were in complete shock and panic. Words can’t describe how I really felt besides the fact that I kept thinking: I wish it were me and not her. It all happened so fast. We acted quickly and thanks to her incredible doctor and early detection, she was cancer free after one surgery. It taught us that cancer is a reality and does not discriminate, it can happen to anyone. We are thankful of how everything turned out 7 years ago and we celebrate her life every year at the survivor lap at Relay for Life. We now know the reality of cancer so we try not to take any day for granted.
Q. Why do you think it’s important that Greek organizations across college campuses participate in Relay for Life?
I think it is important that Greek Life supports the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life to spread awareness of the organization and the event to as many people as possible. Greek life is so well connected and networked that is important that we use this to our advantage to spread the word of the event. We have all been affected by cancer in one way or another and it is important to come together as a community to celebrate the lives of our cancer survivors, remember those we have lost, and fight back through fundraising, education, and advocacy. Relay for Life is an incredible outlet to cope with a loved one lost to cancer and to celebrate the lives of loved ones who have defeated the disease or are going through their treatment. We are all one big community that will eventually never have to hear the words: “you have cancer.”
Q. How has working with the American Cancer Society changed or impacted your life?
A. Working for the American Cancer Society has been an incredible journey thus far. I am able to spread the word of Relay for Life to so many different people in the community. I get the opportunity to meet and network with influential people in the community that help make Relay for Life successful in their community. I am very grateful to work for an organization that I am so passionate about. Relay for Life is not just an event, it is a life changing experience, and I am very lucky to a part of such an amazing event and organization.
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