By Brielle Bryan
Students adorned themselves in capes and tights on Friday, April 21, as they launched themselves into the superhero-themed 12-hour event Relay for Life to support the fight against cancer.
Colleges Against Cancer hosted the 12th annual Relay for Life — co-sponsored by Delta Tau Delta, Student Government and Phi Kappa Psi — in the Student Recreation Center to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
“Everyone is connected by cancer,” said alumna Amanda Parks (’14), an ACS member who works as a staff partner for Relay for Life. “It doesn’t discriminate against anyone.”
Last year, the event raised more than $97,000, according to Parks.
So far, this year’s event has raised around $55,000, according to Parks. However, the season continues until August 31, so that number will likely increase.
During Paint the Campus Purple Week, the week leading up to Relay for Life, student organizations across campus began fundraising, according to Julia Lester, a senior biopsychology major and CAC’s event chair.
Multiple student organizations set up tables during the Relay for Life event.
While Kappa Delta sold bracelets, Sigma Kappa sold chocolate-covered popcorn. Instead of selling jewelry or food, Delta Tau Delta raised money through a game called “Jail Bail.”
“People pay two tickets to put someone in jail and then it takes four tickets to get them out,” said DJ Kleinbard, philanthropy chair of DTD and a junior marketing major.
The “jail” was set up in one corner of the recreation center and was just one of the many games set up by student organizations.
Many students were passionate about fundraising for the event because of their personal experiences with a family member or loved one who had cancer.
“For me, it’s really personal. My dad and my aunt had cancer,” Lester said. “It’s so cool to have a community that supports you and so many people who are united in a common mission.”
Parks’s grandfather is a skin cancer survivor.
Kleinbard’s uncle passed away a few years ago from cancer.
Christine Beverin, a member of Kappa Delta and a senior special education and psychology double major, participated because her mother currently has Leukemia.
“My family has benefitted a lot from American Cancer Society, so I really love to support them,” she said.
At 10 p.m., all of the students sat on the floor and the lights were dimmed as the Luminaria Ceremony began. The Luminaria Ceremony began with a slideshow, which showed different cancer survivors, as well as those still fighting.
When the slideshow ended, guest speakers shared their stories about encounters with cancer.
First, Alex Caronna, a communication studies major, shared a story about his dad.
During his sophomore year spring break, Caronna’s dad proposed the idea of going on a Disney cruise in the summer. Caronna went back to school and began planning for the summer cruise. Talking about his excitement to his mother, she told him that the trip would have to be cancelled.
“Dad’s not feeling too well,” his mother said.
Caronna laughed in disbelief when he heard his mom’s response.
“This guy was my superman,” Caronna said in reference to his dad. “When I heard that he couldn’t go on a Disney cruise because he was feeling a little sick, I just didn’t believe it.”
Caronna’s family then told him that his father had a rare form of cancer.
“We’re going to beat this,” Caronna’s father told him.
Caronna then spent the whole summer driving up every weekend to Boston, where his father went for treatment. Summer eventually ended, and Caronna went back to the College to begin his junior year.
On Sept. 10, 2015, Caronna rushed to the hospital because his father’s condition drastically declined.
Caronna arrived at the hospital to say goodbye to his father. However, his father was in a medically-induced coma, and could not speak or see anyone.
“Three months ago I was going on a Disney cruise and now I have to say goodbye to my father,” Caronna said. “I just thanked him for everything, for an amazing childhood, the lessons he taught me and for dressing up as superman when I was a kid.”
Caronna looked at his father, and even though the doctors said it was impossible, his dad’s eyes opened.
“I remember thinking, ‘That’s my superman,’” Caronna said.
Caronna’s story, as well as the stories of the other cancer survivors, touched the crowd. Students waved their phones in the air to honor the family and friends that they relayed for.
As the speeches ended, students walked a silent lap around the gym to remember those affected by cancer. White paper bags, with fake candles nestled inside, lighted the pathway for students to walk on.
Students wrote who they were relaying for, or what cancer they were battling, on each white bag.
After the Luminaria Ceremony, there were student performances at around 11:50 p.m. by the College’s i-Tunes and Trentones a cappella groups, the Circus Club, Jiva and TCNJ Musical Theatre.
At 1 a.m., a relay pageant took place where different representatives from various student organizations went through a talent portion.
“It’s just a way to keep everyone moving and going throughout the night in order to stay awake,” Parks said.
The event ended at around 6 a.m. on Saturday, April 22, with a closing ceremony.
Cancer is a disease that has touched everyone’s life in some way. Relay for Life gave students a chance to honor their loved ones.
While cancer may win a battle, it hasn’t won the war. By raising money for the ASC, students made the decision to join the fight to save everyone’s superhero.