Becoming the Voice of Lung Cancer: College Students Nationwide Mobilize to BEAT this #1 Killer Cancer Following the Passing of 22-year-old Crew Team Member and Friend

Oct 18, 2010, 05:00 ET from Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --

Like most patients with lung cancer, college student Jill Costello was well aware of the disparity in research funding and sympathy, and she set out to make a difference to advocate for others with lung cancer. In one short year, she inspired a nation of her peers – thousands of college students from Berkeley to Harvard to Northeastern to Yale who have rallied to raise funds and put an end to this #1 cancer killer.

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For almost five years, Bonnie J. Addario and her foundation have been trying to get the message out to the world that lung cancer is the biggest killer in the country, ending the lives of more than 160,000 people a year. Yet the disease remains the lowest on the list of funding priorities.

But when 21-year-old college student Jill Costello was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer last year and died in June, 2010, one year later, she became an overnight champion against this horrific killer. Her will to live and her commitment to help others with the disease echoed through the corridors of college campuses across the country, inspiring thousands of college students. From her hometown in San Francisco to Boston, thousands of college coeds have showed up en masse to carry her message: "We have to beat lung cancer – big time!"

It took the efforts of this coxswain and dynamo who led her California Golden Bears Crew team to a second place overall finish in the 2010 NCAA rowing Championships to bring the voices of those suffering with lung cancer into the national limelight. Lung Cancer has a survival rate of only 15.5% percent—a rate that has not changed in more than 40 years. In 1987, lung cancer surpassed breast cancer as the biggest killer of women.

Jill Costello's voice has become a megaphone for lung cancer, as friends, teammates, coaches, and college students nationwide mobilize to carry her message in cities across the country. These young adults are discovering the power of their commitment to make a difference and are walking, running, and rowing their hearts out to do exactly that.

"They are on fire with determination to spread the word that something has to be done about this killer cancer, " says Addario, a lung cancer survivor who launched the foundation five years ago following her own battle with the disease.

"Her shining spirit is contagious," adds Addario. "This one young lady is changing the course of lung cancer. Her spirit is enrapturing and is uniting people everywhere to show up in droves and say "No more lung cancer for Jill."

After over 20 rounds of chemotherapy and, according to her coach, Dave O'Neill, four different types of drug treatments, Jill, who never smoked, was told her cancer was terminal and that she and her medical team should focus on merely keeping her comfortable in her final days.

But this dynamo was unstoppable. Her efforts to rally support for lung cancer research took on an urgency.

"She was told that she only had a few weeks to live," says O'Neill. "And you never would have known by her actions that she had been told. That's when I knew that I was witnessing something absolutely amazing."

During the final year of her life, Jill teamed up with the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, as Director of Public Awareness, in her hometown of San Francisco to lead a team determined to BEAT LUNG CANCER.

Jill rallied her crew teammates and just about every college student in the Bay area to stand up and take action against lung cancer.

Since June, from San Francisco to Boston, from Chicago to Santa Monica, over 10,000 walkers, runners, and donors have followed this trailblazer's shining example to help raise more than $630,000 to wipe out lung cancer in more than 10 5K Walk/Runs. Last week, almost 200 students from the Harvard/Radcliff crew team showed up in force in Boston. In San Francisco, her friends showed up in 150 teams of college students – over 5,000 participants – and took over Golden Gate Park.

Link to video here.

These "Jog for Jill" events have been sponsored by the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation in her honor.

"Jill said, 'Dream of great things and always believe that what you want is attainable," one of her best friends, K.C. Oakley, told the crowd in San Francisco.

K.C.'s message was directed to her friend, and to the crowd: "Every athletic team from Berkeley is represented here today to race to the finish line with you and for all of us….the football, rugby, diving, rowing, softball, gymnastics, baseball, water polo, Lacrosse, crew teams, hockey, golf, basketball, swimming, tennis, all of your grammar school and high school followers, all of your friends and family, from St. Ignatius to Peninsula People to Pines People who LOVE Jilly to Team Fresh and Lovely, to doctors and researchers you know and don't know. Your mom said, 'Everyone she's ever known is here.' Oh!!! And all the MOMS are here too.

"The work you have done in your short life for lung cancer is building an unstoppable momentum for the foundation and everyone on this planet who needs our help," K.C. told the crowd.

"Let's just say, Jill, you have put together an incredible dream team that's not going to stop growing. We're not going to stop fighting till we BEAT LUNG CANCER.

”Jill's case made people everywhere rethink the stigma of lung cancer. With her powerful will, and upbeat outlook, Jill shocked us, inspired us with her strength and courage, and helped us better understand the problem on our hands. Now, it is up to everyone here today to keep her soul alive in all of us and follow her dreams to BEAT LUNG CANCER. Today is just the beginning," K.C. added.

Investments in Jill's determination and donations to Jog for Jill can be made throughout 2011. Click here to BEAT LUNG CANCER. The 2011 walk/run/jog series will continue the fight with TEAM JILL'S around the country.

SOURCE Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation