Relay for Life raises $51,046 for cancer research
“Cancer doesn’t sleep, and neither do we” was the tagline at Rutgers University's "Relay for Life" marathon, where students stayed awake for 14 hours to fundraise for cancer research.
"Colleges Against Cancer" coordinated the event, which celebrated its 15th year at the Louis Brown Athletic Center on Livingston campus.
Close to 700 participants and 59 teams flooded into the RAC at 5pm on Friday and did not leave until 6am on Saturday, said Gianna DeLizza, president of "Colleges Against Cancer." By the end of the night, the event had raised $51,046 in the name of cancer research.
“The survivors appreciate us being up all night,” said DeLizza, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “They went through so many sleepless nights too because they were sick from treatments.”
Prutha Shah, Andrea Adams and Stephanie Garino represented their sorority, Alpha Epsilon Delta, by staying awake for the full 14 hours.
“(Alpha Epsilon Delta) does a lot of community service around campus in general, so we thought we would garner a lot of support for a good cause,” said Garino, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
The event began with an opening ceremony, in which speakers shared the devastating statistics of cancer’s impact.
New Jersey alone will see 51,410 new cases of the disease in 2015, according to the American Cancer Society.
Cancer survivors shared the first lap around the RAC, DeLizza said. The survivor’s caregivers joined in for the second lap, followed by all participants joining the third lap.
Fundraising did not stop at the door with registration and instead continued with on-site donations until sunrise, said DeLizza, who personally raised $1,750.
The 14-hour event did not solely involve walking laps around the RAC, said Melissa Johnson, chair of "Relay for Life." The Rutgers University Programming Association provided activities for the night, such as a magic show, live entertainment from local bands, a dance party and a Zumba marathon.
“The Paul Mitchell School of Hair is coming to cut hair,” Johnson said. “People will be donating their hair at 10 pm, including myself. I’ve been growing it out for two years now.”
A Luminaria Ceremony acted as one of the more emotional moments of the night. Bags full of glow sticks were placed around the track in honor of those fighting cancer and to remember those lost to cancer, DeLizza said.
The event was particularly special to DeLizza, who lost her father to cancer. She joined "Colleges Against Cancer" to deal with issues she faced after her father’s passing. At last year’s event, she spoke about her experience during the Luminaria Ceremony.
“You start to become humbled by how many people have experienced the same thing,” DeLizza said. “There are so many participants who have lost parents and it proves I wasn’t the only one who lost my dad here.”
For the first time in 15 years, the event was held at the RAC, which DeLizza said is “completely monumental.” In previous years, Relay for Life was held in smaller venues like the Werblin Recreation Center and Livingston Recreation Center.
Johnson and DeLizza both said they utilized social media to a greater extent this year in order to attract more students.
“It gets better every year,” DeLizza said. “I’ve been doing this for three years and having it at the RAC is nothing that I would’ve expected three years ago.”
Each year, "Relay for Life" has a different theme. This year’s theme was superheroes. Participants wore capes and tights to reflect the nature of cancer research, Johnson said.
“Cancer doesn’t discriminate,” Johnson said. “It’s great to bring the community together to celebrate those who fought cancer and won, remember those we have lost and fight back for those still fighting.”
Avalon Zoppo is a Rutgers Business School first-year student majoring in pre-business. She is an Associate News Editor at The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @avalonzoppo for more stories.