Enthusiasm for fight against cancer renewed

The American Cancer Society projects that in 2013, there will be 1,660,290 new cancer cases detected. They also expect that 580,350 people with cancer will die this year. But today, those diagnosed with cancer have a higher chance of living than ever before, thanks in part to the ACS’s fundraising efforts, such as Relay For Life.

Danny Kaplan (center) wins the Mr. Relay contest. (Warren Fields / Staff Photographer)

Over 1,100 relayers crowded into the Recreation Center on Friday, March 22 to celebrate the College’s annual Relay for Life, which was sponsored by Colleges Against Cancer, Phi Kappa Psi and Student Government. Because cancer never sleeps, students stayed up through the night, leaving at 5 a.m. the next morning.

Each day, 350 more people who would have died from cancer are able to live due to the funding provided by the ACS according to its website, and the College played a role in helping to support that funding.

Going into the night, $52,000 had been raised, but by the end of the night, $12,670 more was collected. In total, the College donated $64,670 to the American Cancer Society.

“I couldn’t be prouder of Relay For Life this year,” said Relay For Life co-chair and junior early childhood education and psychology double major Stacey Harrington. “These are all record-breaking numbers for TCNJ. Not only that, we were able to jam-pack the night with lots of fun and festivities.”

To keep the participants awake for the nine hours, Nobody Yet, a band comprised of College alumni played throughout the night. There was also Zumba, a hypnotist and performances from seven different student groups. A Mr. Relay pageant, sumo wrestling and a volleyball tournament were held to raise money throughout the night, as well as to entertain.

“I hope participants took away a lot of memories from Relay. It is a great time for a group of friends or organization to get together for the night and have some pure unadulterated fun,” Harrington said.

Though the night is filled with fun, the participants keep sight on what they are relaying for. Sophomore communication studies major Regina Yorkgitis relayed with the Theta Phi Alpha team, and said that her favorite part of the night was the Luminaria Ceremony.

This is to remember people who have died from cancer, honor those who have fought cancer, and support those who continue to battle the disease.

“My favorite part is always the luminaries, when everyone is silent. Most of the night is very light — people play games, devour cupcakes or participate in sumo wrestling,” Yorkgitis said. “But when the lights turn out, we all remember why we are there — because we know someone who has been affected by cancer.”

English and women’s and gender studies double major Erin Shannon, who relayed with the Women in Learning and Leadership team, agreed that the Luminaria Ceremony was the best part of the night.

“It was shocking to see how many students had also been affected by cancer, and uplifting to see us come together and cry openly for loved ones that we have lost,” Shannon said. “I have never felt closer to the TCNJ community than I did during that ceremony.”

Yorkgitis also felt a sense of community during Relay for Life. “I think that TCNJ students really come together during Relay For Life. I love the sense of community. Everyone, no matter their organization comes for the same reason,” Yorkgitis said.

According to the American Cancer Society, one in four deaths in the United States are caused by cancer. This statistic might seem daunting, but the positive atmosphere created by the relayers in the Recreation Center during Relay For Life sent a different message: one of hope, according to Harrington.

“The atmosphere and spirit of the event is uplifting and inspires the vision of a future where cancer is no longer a devastating disease,” Harrington said. “It is a night when an entire community comes together for a common purpose: to celebrate the brave survivors, remember those we have lost, and to fight back for a cure.”

After participating in this year’s Relay, Shannon is also hopeful for a future without the threat of the over 200 cancers there are today.

“I believe, after Relay, that we can find a cure to cancer by working together. While it seems like such an insurmountable goal, I think that we absolutely will be able to help those living with it, and completely eradicate it soon.”

This year’s number of relayers and amount of money raised set records for the College, but Harrington hopes for an even bigger turnout and amount of donations at next year’s Relay For Life.

“We are always looking to make each Relay For Life better and better every year. Next year, we hope to top our fundraising and participant numbers. We also hope to see more individual participants playing their part to contribute to TCNJ’s fundraising total,” Harrington said. “We hope that the event renews enthusiasm for the ongoing fight against cancer that the American Cancer Society and Colleges Against Cancer work toward through fundraising.”

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