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Local students coordinate run/walk to aid in battle against cancer

Date: 4/3/2014

WESTFIELD – Westfield State University students Brittni Peck of Longmeadow and Sean Vanzant of Springfield are organizing a 5K race as part of their senior internship at Strides Human Performance Institute (HPI) titled T’s Village 5K Run/2 Mile Walk to Conquer Cancer, on April 6. Strides HPI is located at 39 Carlon Drive in Northampton.

T’s Village 5K Run/2 Mile Walk was inspired by Westfield State University professor, Dr. Teresa Fitts. Fitts is battling Stage IV Thymic Carcinoma, a rare form of lung cancer that strikes non-smoking females.

Fitts, who has been teaching at Westfield State since 1997, had just reached a pivotal point in her marathon training, completing a 16-mile run the week before she learned of her diagnosis. Now a patient at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Fitts still plans to participate in the 2014 Boston Marathon as part of the Dana-Farber Boston Marathon Team in April after completing her fourth round of chemotherapy and 30 treatments of radiation.

“As an exercise science professional, I know that there is clear evidence that exercise is linked to survivorship and greater quality of life when undergoing cancer treatments,” Fitts said.

Vanzant, who is organizing the event with Peck, said that he has had Fitts as a professor every year he has attended Westfield State and has always been impressed with her dedication.

“As a person, one word to describe her is passionate,” Vanzant said. “It is not hard to see how much she loves her job, as well as each one of her students. She is always willing to go the extra mile for anyone.”

T’s Village 5K Run/2 Mile Walk to Conquer Cancer will be a fun-filled day with live entertainment, opportunity drawings, T-shirts, face painting, and much more. Registration starts at 8 a.m. with the two-mile walk starting at 9:30 and the 5K run starting at 10 a.m. Peck and Vanzant have a fundraising goal of $5,000 with 200 to 500 participants.

Strides HPI is working along side Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to help find a cure for cancer. This 5K is open to all ages. Participation cost for the 5K run is $15 for individuals or $25 for families and the cost for the 2 mile walk is $10 for individuals and $20 for families. Those who cannot attend but still wish to donate can virtual enroll for $5.

All proceeds raised will go to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is committed to treating children and adults with cancer in the best ways available, working tirelessly to find a cure.

Peck said it was important for her to organize the event as a way of paying Fitts back for all she that has given her and other movement science students.

“Dr. Fitts is a strong, kind woman who is inspiring to all,” Peck said. “Dr. Fitts has done so much for us that we decided to honor this race after her. We will do whatever it takes to make it the best event for her.”

Fitts herself will participate in the two-mile walk. For more information, visit Register online at by searching for the event name. Participants can also choose to register in person the day of the event.