Remarkable Women of the Upper Peninsula Finalist: Savanna Rayner

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HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) – A Hancock native has been making her dream of working with the American Cancer Society (ACS) a reality for 11 years now.

Savanna Rayner is a mom of two young boys, a professional organizer, and has run one-mile per day for the past 500 days.

In between spending time with her kids and scheduling time for some much-needed R&R, Rayner works remotely for the ACS as a Senior Youth Markets Manager. She works with volunteers all over the country to help organize events and mentor staff.

Her passion for leading the fight against cancer began when she attended a Relay for Life event in Houghton when she was in high school.

“There was enough luminaria bags that they went all the way around the inside of the track and the outside. And I was just like…that’s crazy there’s that many,” said Rayner. “Every single one has a name on it. That there are that many people and that many bags in this tiny little area in the middle of nowhere. It was just so impactful to see that.”

After high school, she was part of the Colleges Against Cancer Chapter at Grand Valley State University. And Rayner’s first job after college graduation was working with the ACS.

According to the ACS, 1 in 3 people will be diagnosed with cancer, which has changed previously from 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women. Rayner’s goal is to make sure students know that what they’re doing is important and impactful.

“To tell students that those are what the statistics are right now, but it doesn’t mean they have to be going forward. You can be apart of changing those statistics. […] So that’s why we need young people to be involved and get excited about it and do the work that they’re doing,” said Rayner.

There is a history of cancer in Rayner’s family, which has helped fuel her passion for finding a cure for cancer. But being apart of the ACS for her goes much deeper than just that.

“American Cancer Society has been, I mean, kind of like family for me,” said Rayner. “It’s been such a constant for the past decade of my life. It really feels like home.”

Since moving back to the Upper Peninsula a few years ago, Rayner hopes to work closely with organizations such as Michigan Technological University. MTU has a new esports program, in which the ACS hosts a program called “Gamers vs. Cancer.”

Rayner sees herself working with the ACS for years to come, but along the way hopes to continue to put forth effort into passion projects and never end that running streak.

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