Cata’s Army helps Parkite fight cancer
April 25, 2014
Catalina Ritzinger, whom her friend Rachel Anderson affectionately calls "Cata," grew up with Anderson in Park City. They met through their parents, family friends when they were children. They graduated from Park City High School together, began attending the University of Utah together and even joined the same sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma. On the surface, Ritzinger and Anderson are both young women hoping to graduate from college and follow their passions in their careers. However, Ritzinger is doing all this while fighting for her life.
In November of 2008, when the two were sophomores at Park City High School, Ritzinger was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma. In February of 2011, just before graduation, she was then diagnosed with leukemia. Now, three years later, doctors found an infection in one of her legs, which will most likely result in an above-the-knee amputation.
Ritzinger said her family has been "blessed with amazing insurance" that covers most of the costs of her medical bills, but her surgeries remain pretty expensive. Anderson described Ritzinger as a strong young woman who never asks for help, so she took it upon herself to create a fundraiser for Ritzinger with the help of their sorority sisters.
"I’m what’s called the event chair for my sorority, and I get a big budget to work with and had money left over. So I decided to do something for Cata when I heard about her upcoming surgery," she said. "We held a big country event with barbecue donated by Dickie’s BBQ and had live music and charged people to come. We donated all the proceeds to Cata and her parents for medical bills."
Ritzinger said herself that she is not the kind of person who likes to ask for help, as Anderson had described her, so when she arrived at the sorority house on Monday after a trip to California to a fundraiser just for her, she felt extremely grateful.
"It was amazing that they planned this whole event just for me and invited my whole family and friends and everyone on [Greek Row]," she said. "Some of my sisters even stood up and said some things they had been wanting to say to me. It was amazing to be surrounded by so much love."
In addition to the barbecue, her sorority sisters have launched a website fundraiser called "Cata’s Army." The window to donate closes on Monday, so Anderson has been working hard to get the word out to help her friend and sorority sister. All the proceeds will go into a bank account, and a check will be made out to Ritzinger and her family to help them afford not only the surgery she will soon have but also the prosthetics she will need afterwards.
"Our insurance works, but since all the surgeries are really expensive and they’re thinking it’s going to be an amputation and prosthetics aren’t cheap, any help is really appreciated," Ritzinger said. "Now I’m out of work and will be taking time off from school, so I know it’s going to be hard on my parents even though they don’t like to tell me so. The money will help my family as well as myself."
Ritzinger said she hopes to get through it and graduate from the University of Utah with a major in gender studies and a minor in sexual health. Her ultimate goal is to work for or start a nonprofit organization.
She was inspired and motivated when she went on a service trip in Los Angeles, California over spring break to work with victims of HIV/AIDS and got to visit the Gay and Lesbian Center. She said her passion is to advocate for people who either don’t have adequate health information or need someone to stand up for them.
Ritzinger, though soft-spoken, shows strength in her passion to advocate for people she said either don’t have the sufficient education to be properly informed about their health or need someone to stand up for them and their rights.
Anderson said she admires her friend and hopes that the community they grew up in will help support Ritzinger and her family during a hard time, both emotionally and financially. Ritzinger said she is grateful for the help in whatever form it may come.
"Even if people don’t want to donate, I want them to know that all the letters and notes I get from them always brighten my day," she said. "It doesn’t take money to make me happy."
To donate to the Ritzinger family, visit the Cata’s Army fundraiser website at http://www.youcaring.com/welovecatalina. Ritzinger also has a blog where she documents her trials and tribulations and invites anyone who is interested in her journey to read it at http://www.catalinaritzinger.blogspot.com.