March 16, 2005

Relay Involves Athletic Teams

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On April 9, Relay for Life, the signature event of the American Cancer Society, will be held on Cornell’s campus for the first time. The event, organized primarily by students with the help of the local ACS chapter, raises money and recognizes those who have suffered from cancer. Participants and supporters of the Relay include students and faculty alike, many of whom have already been involved in other campus activities and services that similarly support the fight against cancer. These events range from the athletic community to student services provided by the University.

Last year, the Cornell football team raised $4,500 for cancer research through Touchdowns for Hope. Although the amount for this year has not been totaled yet, “we’ll definitely exceed last year’s amount,” said Trevor MacMeekin ’05, co-chair.

Touchdowns for Hope began two years ago after a former teammate lost a high school friend to cancer. Money is solicited through donations and a partnership with Tompkins Trust Company. For each touchdown scored by the Cornell football team during its entire season, Tompkins Trust Co. pledges a hundred dollars. “There are dual incentives for us to play better and raise more money,” MacMeekin said.

According to Sean Nassoiy ’05, co-chair, brochures are sent to parents, fans and alumni of the Cornell Football Association to attract more donors. “They can pledge a certain amount of money per touchdown we score,” MacMeekin said.

While Touchdowns for Hope is a new program, MacMeekin hopes that the response and donations will continue. “My only hope is that more and more people will catch on … every year we’ll shoot for more,” he said.

While the $4,500 from the first Touchdowns for Hope went to colon cancer, Nassoiy who battled testicular cancer two years ago said, “It’s just the idea that it’s going in the direction [of cancer research].”

MacMeekin’s involvement in Touchdowns for Hope stems from a desire to “give back to the community.” He added that, “Everyone knows people that are affected by cancer. When you have people close to you, it hits close to home and you know you have to do something – this is my opportunity to do that.”

As for Relay for Life, MacMeekin said, “I’m going to see the kind of camaraderie and spirit involved in the whole thing … [and] to be inspired by the people. I think it’ll be really impressive.”

The Cornell men’s basketball team also raises money for cancer research through its sporting events. For the third year, Cornell has participated in Coaches vs. Cancer by donating its proceeds from its annual game against Ithaca College to the ACS.

The National Association of Basketball Coaches began Coaches vs. Cancer on a national level ten years ago to recognize the death of Jim Volvano, the basketball coach at North Carolina State.

Coaches vs. Cancer was brought to Cornell by former basketball coach, Scott Thompson. After Thompson left his position because of colon cancer, current head coach Steve Donahue continued the program. “It’s just a natural thing for us to take over,” Donahue said. “Scott has a lot to do with [the event] … he has gotten very involved with the ACS,” Donahue added. According to Donahue, the team is “looking for different things we can do.” He added, “Unfortunately everyone has been touched by this horrendous disease. I think our guys understand it.”

Aside from these events that raise money and awareness, there is also support on campus for those dealing with cancer, either personally or through family and friends. Gannett offers both medical and psychological services to students struggling with chronic diseases.

“We provide medical services to students, usually connecting them with specialists but we can handle a lot of their basic health support here,” said Sharon Dittman, associate director for community relations at Gannett Health Services. Individual therapy and support groups are also available to students through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), according to Dittman.

“We have a group [Coping with Grief] for people who are dealing with loss … sometimes a death or other kinds of losses related to anticipating a loss or the loss of a function related to an illness,” Dittman added.

The Gannett Moore Library offers a collection of books gathered and donated by a former student who was diagnosed with cancer her freshman year. “She pulled together a library of books for students living with chronic diseases or who have friends and family who are,” Dittman said.

According to Dittman, Gannett staff has actively supported the Tompkins County Relay for Life in the past. “[Relay] been hugely successful over the years … at giving people a way to express their concern, their grief, their relief, their hope and their gratitude,” Dittman said. More information on Cornell’s upcoming Relay for Life can be found at

Archived article by Diana Lo
Sun Senior Writer