Spectators and swimmers crowded the pool at Alumni Arena, surrounding the water that matched their royal blue shirts. They rallied in support of cancer awareness.
Kelsey Barbour, a sophomore speech and hearing sciences major on the swim team, organized a cancer awareness fundraiser through the UB Swim Team on Saturday and raised almost $7,000 dollars. Barbour plans to donate all proceeds to cancer research of all types.
The idea to fundraise came from Barbour's first-hand experience. The summer after her freshman year at UB in 2011, she was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer.
Thyroid cancer is a rare form that attacks the aforementioned gland and accounts for only 1 percent of all cancers, according to cancercenter.com. This gland is located in the neck and produces hormones to keep the body functioning.
"We were stunned when we found out," said Cheryl Barbour, Kelsey's mother. "But Kelsey's been so positive and matter of fact, just so great with the cancer."
Barbour was worried that she would have to go through chemotherapy. Instead, she had to take pills with radioactive iodine in them. These pills had few side effects, and to her surprise, she didn't even lose her hair.
The one worry Barbour had was that she would not be able to swim in the upcoming season, but once she realized that the cancer was treatable, she was determined to get better as quickly as possible. After two surgeries to remove the infected parts of her thyroid, she was ready to go back to school and continue her swimming career.
"It's a really crucial part of training, to keep up over the summer, so when we get back to school in August, we can just hit the ground running," Barbour said. "I've just kind of been behind for the beginning of the season, but luckily we have a lengthy season so I had time to catch up."
This experience motivated her to organize the Hope Floats event, raising money for the American Cancer Society. After coming up with the idea, she reached out to her two best friends, her roommates and teammates: Katelyn Grimm, a sophomore communication major, and Taylor Lansing, a sophomore psychology major.
"We didn't know if it was possible," Lansing said. "It was a lot more work than we had thought. I had attended cancer events in the past and I never realized how much work actually went into planning them."
They talked to their coaches, who fully supported the fundraiser, and offered to help in any way they could to get the ball rolling. The roommates were enthusiastic about having an event sponsored by the swim team that was also for a good cause.
After calling many local businesses – as well as using some family connections – the fundraiser had sponsors and soon it was time to advertise around campus. Barbour and her friends put up posters in the halls and used Facebook to get the word out.
"I think it's really different when you see a poster on a wall about a fundraiser and people just say to themselves: ‘that's nice but someone else could deal with it,'" Barbour said. "It's really different when you actually go through it. It makes you really want to help out."
The event took place in Alumni Arena with both the men's and women's swim teams participating. All swimmers were displaying their support by wearing the Hope Floats T-shirts, as well as matching royal blue swim caps.
While the men's swim team raced against Miami (Ohio) and the women's swim team battled Bowling Green, spectators had the opportunity to donate to the cause.
Donations came in through the purchase of raffle tickets for an auction and a bake sale packed with cookies shaped like cancer awareness ribbons and royal blue T-shirts.
Lansing designed T-shirts that sported the logo for the fundraiser and a motivational quote by Christopher Reeves, an actor and activist: "Once you choose hope, anything is possible." The shirts were designed in an attempt to create a creative and stylish logo to catch the eyes of students around campus.
"We were really happy and excited about everyone who came out and are grateful for everyone who donated," Barbour said. "It's only the first year and it was so successful. I hope for it to continue as an annual event and to keep raising money."