Le Moyne’s first Relay for Life raises funds, awareness
Last Friday, Feb. 17, members of the Le Moyne community gathered in the Athletic Center to walk together, and perhaps stay up all night, in order to raise awareness, support and funds for the American Cancer Society. The Relay for Life (Le Moyne’s first) is a nationwide, overnight style relay event where team members take turns walking around the “track” (or in Le Moyne’s case, the perimeter of the large gym in the Athletic Center).
The event raised about $17,000 for the American Cancer Society and was organized by the Le Moyne chapter of Colleges Against Cancer, which according to the group’s website, is a nationwide collaboration of college students, faculty and staff dedicated to eliminating cancer by working to implement the programs and mission of the American Cancer Society. Junior Erica White and senior Bethany Zembiec, are the co-founders of Le Moyne’s chapter and were instrumental in bringing the Relay to Le Moyne.
During the opening ceremonies, White and Zembiec explained the nature of the event to the hundreds of participants and spectators.
“Cancer never sleeps,” said White, “and for one night, we aren’t going to sleep either.” She compared the Relay’s cycle of day and night to the emotions of a cancer patient going through treatment, feeling tired and weak at the end, “but knowing they will make it through.”
According to White and Zembiec, the idea of hosting a Relay at Le Moyne initially came from the “great experience” they had at Syracuse University’s Relay for Life two years ago, where they ran into Dr. Susan Bastable, chair and professor of the department of Nursing at Le Moyne.
“She posed the question to us: ‘Why don’t we have one of these at Le Moyne?’ Bethany and I kind of looked at each other and said, ‘Yeah why don’t we?’” White said.
The event also arose from personal experiences. White’s mother is a two-time cancer survivor and stayed at the event all night in support of her daughter and the event.
The survivor’s lap is always the first event of a Relay for Life, and Zembiec asked everyone to surround the track as a dozen or so cancer survivors completed the first lap of the night. “Hero” by Mariah Carey played from the sound system and there were many tears, from both the survivors and the observing participants, who kept up a constant stream of cheers and applause.
There were different activities and entertainment options throughout the night, some club tables were selling ribbons or clothing items, and the women’s rugby team offered face painting. In addition to having a DJ (freshman Pat Grimes), the event also featured live entertainment. Junior Pat Micaroni, Colleges Against Cancer committee chair, and his father, local musician Tony Micaroni, entertained the crowds with renditions of songs like Taio Cruz’s “Break Your Heart,” Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” and “Hey There Delilah” by the Plain White T’s.
Another highlight of the night was the emotional luminaria ceremony at 11 p.m. During this time, participants were asked to gather and remember those who have passed away from cancer. Relay participants, honoring a loved one who has passed or someone who is currently fighting the disease, decorated white luminaria bags, which were placed around the track. The illuminated bags created a path for the walkers, who took a lap in silence to pay respects to those diagnosed with cancer and those whose lives have been lost.
Many different Le Moyne clubs and teams were represented at the event, including the Dance Team, Red Cross Club, the women’s rugby team, Music Club and Ultimate Frisbee club. Many participants said they were impressed by the sense of community the event fostered, but perhaps White said it best.
“There is no one here that hasn’t been affected by cancer,” White said. “We are here not only to raise awareness, but to support our Le Moyne family.”