University alumns form biggest LIVESTRONG marathon team


Formed in support of Kate Voth ‘07, Team Kate’s roster is the largest in LIVESTRONG history.

Alumni from St. Edward’s University have banded together to form the largest and highest fundraising team  for the Livestrong Austin Marathon and Half Marathon in support of 26-year-old cancer survivor and alumna Kate Voth.

The team broke records of team size with 119 runners, as well as fundraising, and raised a total of $53,000. 

Stephani Smolucha and Katie Shagman, both St. Edward’s alumni, were already planning to run a half-marathon this year. Smolucha and Shagman came up with the initial idea to run in honor of Voth.

Team Kate’s initial fundraising goal was to hit $1,000, an amount which doubled within the first week of the team’s creation. 

“[It] is a testament to what an incredible person Kate is,” Smolucha said.

In 2004, when Voth was in school at St. Edward’s, she went to a dermatologist and had melanoma removed from her shoulder, thinking it was a routine procedure. Voth went back to the doctor in 2008 and had melanoma removed again, this time from her scalp. In 2009, Voth was told that she had melanoma in her liver and in one of her adrenal glands. She was 22. 

“I’ve looked at myself as a young, active, determined individual who, aside from cancer, is in perfect health … For me, beating cancer has never been a question of ‘if’ but ‘when,’” Voth said.

She is still fighting cancer and undergoes treatment regularly. Last month, her doctors discovered that her cancer had grown. She is now enduring radiation for some 25 brain tumors. Her diagnoses and subsequent treatments have prohibited her from doing any high-impact activities, which includes her all-time favorite passion of running.

“Running is her passion, and I hate running with a passion,” Melinda O’Cañas, a friend of Voth’s, said. “We wanted to show our gratitude and support for everything that she’s enduring by running this marathon. She’s gone through so much.”

O’Cañas—who is the administrative coordinator in the St. Edward’s School of Education—and Voth met at an alumni event and hit it off. O’Cañas did not know Voth had cancer until a while after meeting her.

“She always looked like she was ready to put on her athletic clothes and get ready to run,” O’Cañas said on Voth’s healthy appearance, which was unaffected by treatment until very recently. 

Because of her newest form of radiation, Voth lost her hair. In a show of support, Voth’s husband, mother and sister also shaved their heads.

Runners have the option of paying the regular runners’ fee or to fundraise $500 each. O’Cañas joined Team Kate and decided to pledge to fundraise, ultimately reaching $700. Then, O’Cañas hit the track and started training.

O’Cañas,  experienced firsthand the pain of running 13 straight miles.

“Mile 11 is where my back was really hurting. My second toe felt like the toenail was coming off. I could comfortably run 10 miles, but pushing the rest felt like too much,” O’Cañas said. “I kept thinking that Kate has endured so much compared to this little thing I’m complaining about, which was 20 more minutes of just pushing myself to run.”

Thinking about Voth’s struggle with cancer encouraged O’Cañas to push to the finish line. Voth has served as an inspiration for the lives of many, and her positive energy brought family, friends, peers and strangers together to run for an important cause.

“She’s such a beautiful and kindhearted person, and I’m so glad all these people came together to show support and love for her,” O’Cañas said. “She’s a human being, and she’s an incredible person.”

Eighty-one percent of all funds raised since the program’s inception have gone directly to support programs and services for cancer survivors, according to the Livestrong Foundation’s website.

“It just makes me happy that so much good has come from this very challenging battle with cancer,” Voth said.