This April, “Relay for Life,” the signature event of the American Cancer Society, will be held at Cornell for the first time. The event, which raises money for the ACS, will begin on April 9th in the Ramin Room and continue overnight to commemorate the long struggle of cancer victims. According to Cheryl Kravchuck ’07, co-chair of online registration, fundraising and banking, the purpose of the event aims to “educate people about cancer and commemorate survivors and those that have passed away, and obviously to raise money for research to find a cure.”
The Tompkins County chapter of the ACS has organized Relay events in the past, but since they were held in July, they have been limited to local residents. This year, Simi Katragadda ’07, chair, extended the event to Cornell’s campus.
“We wanted to have a college relay,” she said.
Last year, Relay was held on 225 college campuses nationwide, raising a total of $ 7.65 million. “It’s so important for Cornell to be represented,” Katragadda added.
Steve Donahue, a local resident and Cornell’s men’s basketball coach, has participated in past Relays and commended Cornell students for their involvement in bringing the event to campus.
“I think it’s great for young people at this stage of life to make awareness about this disease … anything like this on college campuses can only be positive,” Donahue said.
Although Relay is a collaboration between Cornell students and the local ACS chapter, Alison Knoth, an ACS staff partner in Tompkins County stresses that students are the primary force behind the event.
“The event is really put together by students — I’m here for guidance,” Knoth said.
“All these students have really been incredible to work with. They really want to make this event a huge success and I think it will be,” she added.
Relay teams consist of eight to fifteen people; throughout the night, there will always be a representative from each team walking to recognize that “cancer never sleeps,” said Alison Koplar ’05, publicity and recruitment chair. The first lap, however, is for survivors only as a celebration of their struggle against cancer.
Candles will also line the track as part of the Luminaria Ceremony, another aspect of the Relay. Donations allow the contributors to dedicate a candle to a friend or family member who has battled cancer.
The survivors committee of Relay is currently working to find survivors on campus “which has been difficult because there isn’t a network we can tap into and [cancer] is something that’s personal,” Katragadda said. The survivors committee will also offer a “cancer smart shop” at the event to provide information on the illness.
Katragadda added that, “Relay for Life is for the survivors basically, we’re just celebrating them.”
According to Sean Nassoiy ’05, a cancer survivor and a member of the Relay for Life steering committee, there will also be a wall where survivors, friends and family can write their personal stories.
The presence of survivors also adds an element of reality. “I guess me having [cancer] makes it more of a reality … when you know someone that it has happened to, it makes it a lot more real,” Nassoiy said.
Many of the students involved in Relay have cited personal reasons for their participation.
“I had an aunt that suffered from breast cancer so it has made me aware of how hard it is to go through … [this is] money that needs to be raised. [Cancer] is something that affects everyone around you — its very likely or possible,” Koplar said.
While Relay raises money for a serious cause, the organizers also hope that participants will have fun.
“We are trying to create a great line of entertainment that includes a cappella, movies, food, contests and dance groups,” Katragadda said.
Relay chairs and organizers hope to involve as many students from both Cornell and Ithaca College as possible.
“I just want everyone on campus to be aware of Relay for Life and for a great number of people to participate,” Katragadda said.
“Our goal for this event is 50 teams. Normally each team raises $1,000 and up,” Knoth said.
Katragadda hopes to match Syracuse University where students raised $55,000 last year. According to Katragadda, Cornell and Ithaca College together have already raised $10,000.
Proceeds from the event will go to the ACS. According to Knoth, 60 percent of contributions are used for programs and services while the other 40 percent is spent on research.
Archived article by Diana Lo
Sun News Editor