By Danielle Silvia
For the 13th year in a row, students from various on-campus organizations stayed up all night to raise money to fight cancer during Relay for Life in the Student Recreation Center from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. on Friday, April 13.
This year, the College Union Board and Circle K co-sponsored the event, and created an inviting and interactive environment for students to enjoy.
The co-sponsors estimate that between Friday night and the wee hours of Saturday morning, over 1,000 participants were involved with this year’s Relay for Life.
This year’s theme was the Olympics, which was evident in the event’s games, activities and environment. Students had the opportunity to purchase tickets that they could redeem for giveaways at tables throughout the Rec Center. Several student organizations worked together to sell snacks, like cupcakes and Philly Pretzels, and American Cancer Society merchandise.
The Opening Ceremonies began at 7:30 PM after the playing of the national anthem and featured two young adults affected by cancer. Andrew Avallone, a senior mechanical engineering major, reminisced about a day much like April 13 — a beautiful, sunny day spent with loved ones. He and his family were ready to embark on a vacation when they learned about Avallone’s younger brother’s cancer diagnosis.
“My world was immediately turned upside down. My family and I dealt with pain, sadness, confusion and frustration all at once,” Avallone said.
Avallone explained how he soon became very supportive of his brother’s cancer battle and chemotherapy treatment. His family united in support of his brother, who Avellone would take time off school to visit.
Alumna Christine Beverin (’17) talked about her personal story with cancer. Her mother passed away in May of 2017, shortly before Beverin’s graduation from the College.
Beverin shared her most cherished memories from her mother’s final days and stressed the need to find a cure for cancer.
“I try not to look back on my mother’s passing with sadness, but I miss her presence in my proudest moments, such as becoming a graduate student at Columbia University,” Beverin said.
After these two heartfelt stories were shared, students began making laps around the Rec Center’s track and participating in various activities. Hair Worx, the new hair salon in Campus Town, cut several students’ hair to donate to cancer patients.
Celine Mileham, a junior secondary education and chemistry dual major, was the first Relay for Life participant to donate eight inches of her hair for a wig. Mileham’s friends gathered around in excitement to witness her haircut, and several passersby soon joined, forming a crowd almost instantaneously.
One of many students who participated donated 16 inches of her hair, according to a Hair Worx employee. The success was remarkable and students felt proud to give something so personal to someone in need.
At 9:30 p.m., the luminaria featured a beautiful lighting display of white bags with the names of both deceased and living cancer patients and caregivers’ names written on them. The gym lights were dimmed, and several members of CUB and Circle K spoke about the importance of Relay for Life.
Some of the donations from the College’s Relay for Life went toward bringing cancer patients and their caregivers to Hope Lodges — a place to stay if they are not close to their cancer treatment site.
Event highlights included in a tug of war, games inspired by the TV show “Minute to Win It,” karaoke and a Mr. and Miss Relay for Life Pageant.
Students spent the night laughing while playing fun games, but also sharing somber and emotional stories of how cancer has affected their lives. It was a night of spreading hope for a cancer-free future.
Jessica James, a sophomore public health and sociology double major, explained how moving the event was to her. This was James’ second year participating in Relay for Life at the College, and the satisfaction that comes with giving back makes her want to participate each year.
“It is amazing to see the campus community come together for such an amazing cause and pursue with love, empowerment and strength,” James said.