Courtesy Sawako Suzuki

Suzuki enjoying herself at Yellowstone National Park in summer 2017. In addition to running, Suzuki is an active climber and nature enthusiast.

March 19, 2018

Spotlight on Sophomore Sawako Suzuki: Running Across the Country for Cancer

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Meet Sawako Suzuki ’20, a student passionate about solving scientific problems outside the classroom. For some people running is a sport or a rigorous workout. For Suzuki, running is a medium for community engagement, research, philanthropy and healthcare.

This summer, she will be running across the country as a fundraiser for youth cancer patients. The run is from San Francisco to Boston. It is 4,000 miles, and will involve 25 other college students. Along the way, participants will be delivering chemotherapy care bags and scholarships to teens.

Suzuki is from Vestal, a small town in upstate New York, and is studying international agriculture and rural development in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences with a minor in nutrition and health.
4K for Cancer is organized by the for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, a non-profit organization whose mission is to change lives by creating a community of support for young adults and their loved ones impacted by cancer. This organization raises funds that go directly towards young adult cancer patients’ recovery and support services, with a focus on direct patient services. Highlights of the trip will include the Loneliest Highway, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Big Sky Country, Chicago, the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Placid.

Suzuki is motivated by her family’s struggle with cancer. When she was 11 years old, her father was diagnosed with lymphoma. At the time, she and her family found there were not many support or recovery services to help them cope and heal.

“This run involves a lot of different passions of mine, including running, education, service, and specifically giving back to the cancer-affected portion of the population,” Suzuki said. “Also, I am always up for a crazy challenge like this!”

She found out about the 4K and the Ulman Cancer fund from different social media platforms.
“[Running] is my meditation. It is my stress-reliever. It is my alone time. It is my time with friends.” Suzuki said.

Before embarking on the trip, Suzuki has a goal to raise $4,500 and she is currently 33 percent of the way there. In order to reach this goal, she is holding a variety of events both on and off campus and is reaching out through many social media platforms.

Suzuki held a baked potato dinner and a brunch fundraiser in early March with a movie screening at the Forest Home Chapel. She also partnered with Chipotle on March 11 to raise money by having 50 percent of all burritos purchased go to the Ulman Cancer fund.

Additionally, she is hosting rock-climbing events at the Lindseth climbing wall on campus to fundraise on March 26 and on April 19. Her band, “Blonde Roast” will also have a benefit concert at the Ten Forward Cafe on April 13.

“Even the smallest donation can make a huge difference” Suzuki said. “It means so much to me.”

Suzuki’s involvements on campus reflects her passion for service and science. She is involved with Camp Kesem, a national organization that provides support resources to children who are affected by a parent’s cancer. As the outreach coordinator, Suzuki is not only responsible for raising funds to host a week long summer camp but also for campus recruitment and communications of the Cornell chapter of Kesem.

In addition to Kesem, Suzuki is co-founder and deli manager for Cornell’s chapter of FeelGood, a national organization dedicated to ending food security through education of sustainable development. The club runs a gourmet grilled cheese deli from food donations and student volunteers. They donate the raised money to Water for Water for People, Choice Humanitarian, the Pachamama Alliance, and the Hunger Project.

Suzuki also conducts research on campus in the Benzer Kerr developmental sociology lab, where she pursues her interest in food insecurity. As a research assistant, she codes qualitative data from recent fieldwork in Malawi. After graduating from Cornell, Suzuki hopes to work for a non-profit that targets food insecurity in developing countries.