May 22, 2018 | ° F

600 Rutgers students participate Rutgers Relay For Life to raise money for cancer research

Photo by Jeffrey Gomez |

The annual event, "Relay For Life," is organized by Colleges Against Cancer, a nationwide organization of college students collaborating to raise money and support for cancer research.

Following the theme "cancer doesn't sleep so neither will we," Rutgers students stayed up all night Friday to walk laps at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) on Livingston campus to raise money for cancer research.

The annual event, "Relay For Life," is organized by Colleges Against Cancer, a nationwide organization of college students collaborating to raise money and support for cancer research. Samantha Sherman, the president of the Rutgers chapter of Colleges Against Cancer and a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said there were more than 600 participants at this year's event.

“The idea is to have at least one person from your team walking the track the entire time,” Sherman said. “People can take shifts. It's a lot more low-key than Dance Marathon in the fact that everybody doesn't have to be standing or dancing all at the same time. It's a more relaxed event, but definitely not worse. There's a lot going on.”

The goings-on at this year's "Relay for Life" began with a lap to honor cancer survivors. Several cancer survivors spoke to the crowd, then led the crowd in the lap.

This was followed by a ceremony to honor those lost to cancer, Sherman said. Caregivers shared their stories and the track set up for the event in the RAC was surrounded by luminaria bags, each dedicated to someone with cancer. Students could purchase a luminaria bag for $10 and decorate it for a loved one who is fighting cancer or who died from the disease. 

The event also hosted live music and a basketball tournament.

Later in the night, there was a "Miss Relay Pageant," where men dressed up in wigs, makeup and women's clothes. 

The night concluded with Zumba at 4 a.m. and yoga at 5 a.m.

In the weeks leading up to "Relay for Life," student participants solicited donations from friends and family, said School of Arts and Sciences junior and chair of the Rutgers Chapter of Colleges Against Cancer Thomas Monaghan.

“We encourage people to fundraise not just up to the event, but during the event,” Monaghan said.

One team comprised of members of the fraternity Alpha Kappa Lambda who held a bake sale at "Relay for Life," selling donuts and water bottles. 

School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Christian Wityk, a member of the team, said they raised over $120 throughout the night.

Students from the beauty school Paul Mitchell The School Jersey Shore in Brick Township volunteered to cut participants' hair to create wigs for cancer patients who lose their hair due to chemotherapy.

“You put the hair in a ponytail and you just cut, and then we'll donate it,” said Brielle McAlindin, who was giving haircuts. “You chop it off and then you refine it. Straighten it out, make it look good, give it a little style.”

McAlindin said no minimum length is necessary to donate, but volunteers must have at least enough hair to make a meaningful donation.

Kristin Lawton, a senior in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, donated some of her hair.

Lawton had attended "Relay for Life" before and knew that haircutting would be offered but had not planned on donating her hair, she said.

“I was just kinda like, 'Oh, I'm gonna do this thing,'” she said. 

Before her haircut, her hair had been a little past her shoulders. She said she donated about 4 inches in length.

The Rutgers Seeing Eye Puppy Raising Club participated in the event and brought their dogs with them, said Mike Schuler, a senior in the School of Arts and Sciences and the vice president of the club. The Seeing Eye Puppy Club brought about 20 participants, making it one of the larger teams at "Relay for Life."

“For our club, it's a little difficult because we have the dogs, so we have to make sure they're not stressed out,” Schuler said. “But it's a great exposure event for the dogs because it's a lot of loud noises, a lot of people and a lot of crowds."

"Relay for Life" is a year-long process, said Shawn Triggs, an American Cancer Society community manager.

Triggs was integral to coordinating the event at Rutgers and he said there will be an opportunity for fundraising on April 2 and 3 at Brother Jimmy's Barbeque.

“We're definitely going to try to stay motivated since the event is this time of year where we have a month and a half where students are still on campus to try to engage them with different fundraising ideas and keep relay at the forefront of their minds,” Triggs said.

Max Marcus is a School of Arts and Sciences senior. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.

Max Marcus

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