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SJU fund-raiser honors student

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Ivana Williams, a 19-year-old sophomore from Michigan battling brain cancer, was the featured speaker. In the darkened basketball court the spirit and smile was audible in her voice as she talked about participating in the St. John's musical "Seussical," her various activities and the support from her family."If I'm worried every day and afraid to have fun, then I'll be sick and sad," she said afterward. "It's better to be sick and happy."She was diagnosed a year ago after dizziness and fainting spells worried her enough to begin consulting doctors and specialists to find the cause. Far from her mother - Williams is an only child - she is now in the care of neurologist Dr. Laura Schoenberg."I feel fine now. It's just about having enough salt" to regulate her low blood pressure, Williams said.But for a second it sounded like she said "it's about having soul."Williams stays busy and involved in campus life, singing in choirs, working as a student ambassador, serving as a student mentor trainee and doing community service with Pause, an organization she founded, she said.Members of the university community who could not attend the all-night walk that raises funds for the American Cancer Society sent videos to be played at the opening ceremony. Legendary basketball coach Lou Carnesecca, on the road at a game, was one of the stars."Sometimes you get a little discouraged... but keep up the good work," he rasped in the video. "Give it your best shot. Remember, we're going to beat it!"The event drew about 1,200 students, faculty and staff, cancer survivors, care-givers and family members who enthusiastically raised money for the annual fund-raiser."We have about $40,000 raised so far. The goal is $60,000," said Kathryn Hutchinson, a faculty member who headed the planning committee. She was not worried about meeting the total, though. Not only was there still counting to be done, there was still money coming in."Kappa Lambda Phi, an academic sorority for pharmacy students, raised $6,000 this week," she said. "There's something called the Purple Circle for groups that raise more than $10,000 and they wanted to be in the Purple Circle."The sorority brought in a few hundred dollars Friday to meet its ambitious goal of $10,000, then decided they had to surpass it just for good measure."Their total to date is $10,000.02," she said.Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodoulides@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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