The Strength to Fight

Renee Hamilton is strong, and she’s many things to many people: a mother, wife and breast cancer survivor. But now, along with her brother, Shane Venezia, she’s also a cancer-fighting advocate and philanthropist.

In 2011, Renee was only 30-years-old with no predisposition or family history, but was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, her family was stationed in Fort Bragg, and with her husband preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, she knew she’d need extra support. So, as she had done through many of life’s challenges, Renee turned to her brother.

Shane, a gym owner in Covington, vividly remembers receiving that phone call from his sister. “I can tell you exactly where I was…What I was wearing… There was no warning. She just called and said that they had found a lump and that it was breast cancer. It destroyed me.”renee and shaneShane and Renee have always been each other’s support system. “Shane and I were always close,” said Renee. “And as we grew up, we became very best friends. He was always my protector, and he did a pretty good job of it… but he couldn’t protect me from this.”

Overwhelmed with the need to help his sister, Shane came up with way his gym could get involved in Renee’s fight and 24 in 24 was born. This CrossFit challenge encompasses 24 workouts in 24 hours with athletes from throughout the region participating – some even signing up for all 24. The workouts vary in difficulty and all are welcome to either participate, sponsor an athlete or spectate.

Even after Renee beat breast cancer, the success of the first 24 in 24 inspired Shane to continue his own kind of battle. “I promised her I would keep it going. I have a personal vendetta against cancer.” Since 2011, 24 in 24 has raised over $200,000.

Now, the funds raised by 24 in 24 help provide treatment, care, early detection, research and education for patients in the Northshore community at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. Shane says he’s most proud of how it has come to represent a community giving back to its own members.

“We’re circling the wagons and taking care of our own. When you donate to 24 in 24, the funds go directly to the community and can touch someone you know: your sister or your father….”

In addition to raising funds for the fight against cancer, this year’s 24 in 24 will also offer free breast cancer screenings and feature a survivor walk to kick-off the event. Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center’s mobile unit will be onsite during the fundraiser for anyone who wishes to be screened, and all cancer survivors are encouraged to attend the morning walk.

In talking about the onsite screenings, Renee expressed,

“It could be lifesaving. How many young women do breast exams? It wasn’t me. Who knows who is going to walk into that mobile unit and have their life saved.”

24 in 24 will take place June 10 at CrossFit No Surrender in Covington with 100 percent of the proceeds benefitting Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. For information on how to participate or donate, visit