Racing towards a cure

St. John’s painted the campus purple this past week, in an effort to raise money for cancer research and awareness. In just a week’s time, the University raised thousands of dollars during “Paint the Campus Purple Week,” a fundraising event that ran from March 15-19, leading up to the school’s fifth annual Relay for Life, taking place on Friday, April 9. Purple is seen as a color of hope, and is often used in cancer awareness symbols, making it the perfect color to use in this campaign.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 1.5 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2009 and it is the second leading cause of death in the United States, making it essential for those that can lend their time and money to help find a cure.

Prior to “Paint the Campus Purple Week,” the University had raised roughly $3,000 in donations and 58 teams had signed up to participate in the 12-hour long Relay for Life event. During the week of campaigning, St. John’s raised another $7,000, and now, there are more than 100 teams signed up to participate in Relay for Life. The money raised through St. John’s Relay for Life event will help fund shuttles to take individuals who cannot afford transportation to and from their cancer treatments.

The Director of Student Wellness Dr. Kathryn Hutchinson, Student Government, Inc., the Office of Student Engagement, and the Planning Committee designed all the activities and promotions for the “Paint the Campus Purple” event.

Sophomore Theresa Brennan, a member of the main planning committee for Relay for Life, said she feels that the participation for the fundraising was exceptional this year.

“This is the best Paint the Campus Purple Week that St. John’s has ever had,” she said.

John Marchi, the Student Affairs assistant chair of SGI, said he feels that the D’Angelo Center has had a significant part in making this year one of the most successful fundraising weeks for Relay for Life.

“The D’Angelo Center is in the heart of the campus. I know last year they operated out of the UC and Bent Hall,” he said.

“I think the D’Angelo Center really helped and had a central part.”

For many participants, there are personal reasons attached to the cause, which bring them back year after year.

Brennan said that she first participated in a Relay for Life event in the third grade, growing up in Seattle.

“It’s very hard, but I realized this is something that really unites people,” she said. “Relay for Life is a cool event because so many people have been affected by cancer and to come together in one night is so great. It’s cool to think so many students would come out for a cause like this.”

The Luminaria decorating was one of the most emotional events sponsored on campus this week. This was the first year students could write and draw on the luminaria bags to express how they have been affected by the disease. Some students also sent in pictures of people they knew affected by cancer for the event.

Christina Zaccarelli, vice president of SGI, said she thought the personalized luminaria helped students reflect on their grief and find hope.

“I haven’t personally had anyone close to me affected by cancer, but when organizing the bags and reading through the personal messages, it’s definitely a humbling experience,” she said.

Marchi said he enjoys being involved with Relay for Life because as it reflects the University’s Vincentian spirit.

“I feel like I have been able to experience all parts of the mission. Instead of being on the giving end, this lets me be on the organization level,” he said. “It’s kinda of like I’m taking this to the next level.”

Although the “Paint the Campus Purple” event is over, students and faculty are still encouraged to donate and contribute to the foundation.

“Cancer is something that people are aware of but they’re not proactive in doing something about it,” said Marchi. “This really gives them a chance to be aware but also help out and make a real difference.”