The sound of laughter accompanied by the smell of juicy beef patties and hot dogs filled the space in front of Save-On-Foods grocery store on May 17. A group of high school students were yelling “Burgers! Get your burgers!” to the tune of Britney Spears and Michael Jackson songs. The dynamic team was led by the sibling duo Katie and James. Their goal? To raise enough money to complete a lung cancer clinic.
Katie Ryeburn, 17, is the team captain for the Charles Hays Secondary School (CHSS) Relay For Life Team.
“Basically I saw a couple of people at my school who have been affected by cancer and I didn’t like the fact that they had to walk at the Relay For Life alone so I wanted to start my own team,” she said.
Katie Ryeburn started Relay For Life team at her school last year when she was in Grade 11 and only 16 years old. By her side is her right-hand man James Ryeburn, 19.
“My sister and I wanted to organize this Relay For Life because cancer is a terrible disease and nobody should have to fight that alone. So we think as a community we can show our support for friends and family and survivors alike,” he said.
This is the third barbecue the Ryeburns have hosted raising money for cancer, they said. This year they estimate to raise one thousand dollars from the barbecue alone. Last year they successfully reached that same goal and donated the funds to the North Coast Health Improvement Society (NCHIS).
This year, they hope to help complete the lung clinic (COPD) housed at the NCHIS. The clinic was initiated in memory of the late Nelson Kinney, a long-time councillor who suffered with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.
Both teenagers were born in Prince Rupert raised by a dad who worked in the hospital everyday as a family doctor.
“We see and hear about sickness all the time,” Katie said.
What really pushed the sibling duo to pursue their Relay For Life goal was also witnessing their friend Isaac Mastroianni go through a cancer battle of his own in 2017 when doctors found two brain tumors in his head.
“[The school] didn’t want him to feel alone. Just getting teachers and students to come out and join my team is really inspiring for me,” Katie said.
The Relay For Life is not the only plans the Ryeburns have in store for helping others to conquer cancer. Both siblings plan to lead by their father’s example and become doctors.
“It’s very fulfilling work to give back and help people in need,” said James, who is currently studying science at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
His sister is graduating from CHSS in a month and received a full scholarship offer from the University of Northern British Columbia where she will be studying in the bio-medical field.
The Relay For Life will take place on May 25 at the Prince Rupert Middle School track from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m.
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