Relay for Life raises $40,000 for cancer research

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Baruch College’s 12th annual Relay for Life event raised approximately $40,000 by hosting a number of competitive and engaging events in the Baruch gyms. Several months of intensive fundraising on the part of student organizations led to a 12-hour-long walkathon held from 5:30 p.m. on April 15 to 5:30 a.m. on April 16. The money raised will go to support cancer research. Last year, the event raised a grand total of $52,043.38, down from $72,532 in 2014.

Mitchell Garcia, vice president of the Baruch chapter of Colleges Against Cancer, attributed the decrease in fundraising to last year’s moratorium on Greek life. Greek organizations were some of the event’s largest contributors.

“Relay for Life took a hit from a lot of Greek life being banned from Baruch,” said Garcia. “Last year alone the top [social Greek] teams donated $12,000 each, so this year we didn’t have those two top teams; so, that $12,000 from just two teams isn’t coming back.”

In light of the loss of organizations that fundraised intensively, Garcia acknowledged that every little bit of money helps in the long run.

“The money gets donated to the American Cancer Society, and the reason we picked the American Cancer Society was because we are more for people now. So rather than donating it to organizations that spend a lot of their donations on cancer research, the American Cancer Society is more dedicated to giving money to the people who are suffering cancer now. For example, every $200 that we donate is put into housing someone with cancer for about five days. Every $50 that is donated is [put toward] transporting someone with cancer to their medical facility,” Garcia explained.

According to Annie Sourbis, president of the Undergraduate Student Government, the solution to the Greek life participation debacle will likely come from encouraging other large organizations to get more involved in fundraising.

“Last year, when the provost and the administration passed the moratorium … one of my biggest concerns about this was what kind of impact it was going to have on Relay for Life, because Relay for Life isn’t just about Greek life, it is about other clubs coming together, regular everyday students coming to this event, having a great time in support of a cause and learning more about cancer. That was definitely a concern I had last year and something I had brought up at the time.”

“I don’t think Relay was the number one concern when it came to that moratorium, and we did not know exactly what the solution was. I did mention to Mitchell and a few other people in the American Cancer Society about combining Baruch’s already successful Relay for Life with Hunter College’s frat life, which was much larger anyway before the moratorium that we had. So we could give their frats the Relay for Life they always wanted while also helping out our Relay for Life that was going to suffer due to the moratorium,” added Sourbis.

Despite the setback caused by the moratorium, an array of clubs and organizations tabled at the event, including Women in Business, Finance and Economics Society, Hunter College’s Zeta Phi Alpha sorority and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which donated $6,000 to become the event’s largest donor. Refreshments, arts and crafts, and tickets for participating in games such as Nerf gun wars and basketball were sold throughout the night.

Sigma Alpha Delta, who beat out eight other teams during Relay for Life’s April 7 promotional event, Paint the Town Purple, also attended the event. The organization raised money by selling baked goods for $1 each and taking Polaroid photographs of each buyer.

“We all came together as a group and decided that this was a cause worth fighting for, because together we can achieve almost anything,” said Kevin Wang, the chairman of volunteer programs for Sigma Alpha Delta. “We felt that no one was stepping up to fundraise as a group, so we thought we would all pitch in to one cause.”

Following the opening ceremony at 6:30 p.m., survivors of cancer, caretakers of those with cancer and relatives of those with cancer were encouraged to walk a lap around the main gym. A number of events and performances, including a hula-hoop contest, pie-throwing and several live musical performances occurred as well.

Around 10:00 p.m., a luminaria ceremony complete with decorated paper bags, each filled with yellow glow sticks, were set up around the perimeter of the main gym. Written on each bag were messages to friends and loved ones who either survived cancer or perished because of the disease. The ceiling lights were dimmed as Deborah Freire, a caretaker of her father, who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, addressed the audience.

“Those living with people fighting cancer, I know it is hard,” said Freire after describing her father’s diagnosis and subsequent painful surgical procedure on Feb. 8. “At times you might get impatient and say ‘why me? Why me? Why was I cursed with having to deal with this disease?’ But no, cancer is not a curse. Cancer is something that makes you strong.”

Following a series of chemotherapy treatments, Freire’s father is expected to be cancer-free by September.