At 6 p.m. Friday, Joe Prosperi and a crew of volunteers will be racing around a crowd of about 1,000 Boone County residents before the 11th annual Relay for Life begins, making sure everything is going as planned. Two hundred of his fellow cancer survivors will kick off the event with the first lap around the track.
Prosperi, a representative of the American Cancer Society who is in charge of the event, laughed as he explained what he’ll be wearing that night.
“See, I’ve always wanted to wear my committee shirt and a survivor shirt, so this year I’m going to try to cut the shirts in half and sew them together,” he said. “My girlfriend is coming into town, so she can help me with that.”
Prosperi started working for the American Cancer Society soon after graduating from MU in May 2004. He was no stranger to the cancer society’s work, however. During college, Prosperi was diagnosed and treated for bladder cancer, prompting him to become involved in Mizzou’s Relay for Life. On July 12, Prosperi will celebrate four years of being cancer free.
The appearance of Prosperi’s office is testament to his busy schedule. It’s jam-packed with Relay for Life Frisbees, balloons, stickers, pens, cups, ribbons, paperwork and other paraphernalia. Information related to the event also clutters his computer. He scanned his files to offer the names of volunteers and team captains who have helped the relay come together.
“It is amazing to see volunteers do what they do,” he said. “Their optimism is contagious.”
Maggie Harvey is co-captain for two of the 83 teams that will participate Friday. The Naught-Naught Insurance team has 18 members who have already collected $1,500 through individual fund-raising, a group garage sale and a silent auction.
Harvey became involved with Relay for Life because she has had uncles, cousins and a grandmother who have battled cancer. And months after she began volunteering, she learned that her father had developed prostate cancer. He is undergoing treatment now.
“This is an important event,” Harvey said. “At some point or another you’ll know someone who is or has been touched by cancer. The more support you get, the better off you are.”