Students engineer Beech Bend event to support cancer research

WKU students (left) junior Sarah Bright, 20, and junior Madison Le Roy, 20, from Bowling Green enjoy the Sizzler ride during WKU night at Beech Bend Park in Bowling Green, Ky September 14, 2013. This was the first WKU night at the park and 10 percent of the proceeds go to fighting cancer. 

Christian Marnon

WKU Night at Beech Bend Park on Saturday was started as a way to raise money for the American Cancer Society in honor of two WKU engineering students battling cancer.

Last week, another engineering student was diagnosed, making the event even more crucial, Reed Gonzalez, a manager at Beech Bend and WKU mechanical engineering graduate who organized the event, said.

“It’s strange, and also sad because none of us expected it,” Gonzalez said about the sudden news.

Gonzalez said the department is a tight-knit group, and he knows all three students, or former students, battling cancer.

“The first friend was an RA in Minton who graduated in May in mechanical engineering,” he said. “He was married in June and got diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma about three or four weeks ago. He’s at the treatment stage where bills keep coming in, so we’re reaching out to help.”

The other student battling cancer is a current senior and civil engineering major who was diagnosed with Stage III brain cancer last spring, Gonzalez said.

“His recovery process has been much longer, but he’s doing a lot better,” he said. “Several engineering students built a concrete canoe for him and wrote ‘courageous’ on it as a sign of gratitude.”

Gonzalez said the third friend battling cancer is a WKU graduate and international student who is currently studying at the University of Kentucky. She has melanoma in multiple areas.

“She was a member of Tau Beta Pi and someone we know very well,” Gonzalez said. “She’s extremely nice and lively — definitely not a person you would expect to get cancer. It hits everybody at the wrong times.”

On WKU Night, Beech Bend charged a discounted $20 ticket price for anyone with a WKU ID. Attendees affiliated with WKU had event-exclusive nighttime access to several of Beech Bend’s rides and attractions.

Ten percent of the proceeds went to the American Cancer Society. The event raised close to $200 for the three students on Saturday.

Gonzalez said turnout wasn’t quite what he had hoped, but he was happy to raise any amount of money for his friends in need.

“With this event, we wanted to test the water to see how receptive it would be,” he said. “I’m very proud of this event, and I look forward to its future.”

Joe Ray, a volunteer at the American Cancer Society, spoke briefly at the event about the impact of cancer and its financial demand.

He said money is vitally important, as almost all fundraising efforts go toward research.

“These types of activities really impact peoples’ lives,” Ray said.