University Community Gets Ready for Relay

The annual fundraiser to benefit cancer research, Relay for Life, will return to St. John’s on April 13 in Carnesecca Arena. The University event is only one of the many events held around the country.

The event was brought to St. John’s by Student Government Inc., seven years ago and is now the “largest student fundraiser on campus,” according to Associate Dean for Student Engagement Mary Pelkowski.

Pelkowski said that Relay has already collected $48,011, which is $8,000 ahead of where it was this time last year.  The goal this year is $75,000, more than the past two years when the event collected $59,500 in 2010 and $67,400
in 2011.

So far 1,333 students and 114 teams have already registered to attend the event on Friday night into Saturday morning.

“Unfortunately, we or someone we know has been affected by cancer,” Pelkowski said, explaining why students are so drawn to the event. “I think Relay allows people to come together to remember, celebrate and fight back against a disease that has claimed the lives of so many.”

Relay for Life was founded in 1985 by Dr. Gordy Klatt of Washington, when he circled around a track for 24-hours to support his local American Cancer Society (ACS) office, raising nearly $27,000 from 300 supporters, according to the ACS.

The ACS notes on its website that “each year, more than 3.5 million people in 5,000 communities in the United States, along with additional communities in 20 other countries,” partake in Relays.

This year’s Relay will start at 6 p.m in Carnesecca Arena with an opening ceremony to welcome the participants. A survivor lap will follow, where cancer survivors walk to celebrate surviving the disease. There will also be the luminaria ceremony, where bags and candles are lit to honor those with cancer and those who have passed.

There will be various performances from bands, artists and dance groups.

Senior Matt Zazzarino and his band, TEAM, will be one of the groups performing, after winning the on-campus Battle of the Bands contest in February.

TEAM is scheduled to take the stage at 10 p.m. for Relay.

Zazzarino said playing at the event is important for him and his three band mates because of the amount of people who attend the event. Zazzarino said Relay would be one of the biggest audiences they have ever played for.

But more importantly, to Zazzarino, the lead vocalist and guitar player, and his sister Pam – the keyboard player—the Relay means much more, since they have also lost multiple relatives to cancer.

“Playing at Relay is a big deal for us,” Zazzarino said. “It feels great to be actively participating in something that will contribute to one day eradicating the disease.”

Zazzarino said that while Relay provided a fun environment for students to come together, the more important thing was for students to help raise awareness of cancer research.

“It’s important for St. John’s kids to attend, because creating and fostering a sense of community is a really integral part of the fight against cancer,” he said. “It’s a real TEAM effort.”