Students banded together to fight cancer last Friday evening at St. John’s fifth annual American Cancer Society Relay for Life. According to Kathryn T. Hutchinson, executive director of Student Wellness, more than $56,000 was raised this year.
Students made up 144 teams, comprised of groups of friends or student organizations, walked all night in a show of solidarity.
The event kicked off at 6 p.m. in Carnesecca Arena with a speech by junior Shaun Latshaw, a pre-med student and a cancer survivor.Latshaw’s speech focused on the successfully large turnout for the walk.
“Before we even raise a dollar for Relay for Life, the conscious attending of this event is breaking down the barriers that cancer can create,” he said.
“I do have a lot of bad memories, but superseding the bad memories are the great memories. That’s kind of like what we’re doing here; we’re creating memories that are defeating what cancer is trying to build up. I think that’s awesome.”
Throughout the night, each team was required to have one member walking around the floor of the arena. During breaks, students could watch movies in the Little Theatre, listen to music, or socialize with friends.
According to Dr. Katheryn Hutchinson, who coordinated the event, some of the money raised would be used in the community. The goal of the event was to raise money for the American Cancer Society (ACS).
“A portion of the funds raised are used right here in Queens to help folks to get treatment,” she said.
The ACS uses the money to provide free cancer screenings, as well as to pay for transportation and lodging for patients who must travel for treatment.
Hutchinson said she hoped that students would take several things away from the event.
“First, students should recognize how powerful they are to impact their community,” she said.
“They should take away the sense that they can make a difference. They should take away information. If they or someone they love should they become sick, there are resources available. And I hope that they have a good time.”
The students who participated had various explanations for the event’s popularity.
“I think that it’s a combination of the social thing and the helping-others thing,” freshman Raj Shah said. “If you can help someone get better and you can be with your friends at the same time, I think that’s a great idea to make money that way.”
Sophomore Bessie Thomas felt the event brought the University together.
“It’s a time when we can all unite and it’s for a good cause,” Thomas said. “I’m sure that each one of us has had an experience with cancer, so we can relate to it in some way.”
Senior Jeanette Arias participated in Relay for Life through her sorority, Theta Phi Alpha.
“I think all the activities [encourage students to attend]. It’s a time when all the organizations come together,” she said. “Our sorority’s goal is to raise $1,000.”Each individual had his or her own reason for attending.
“My aunt had breast cancer, my mom had skin cancer and my sister had skin cancer, so it’s a good reason to raise money for cancer,” freshman Michael Fallon said.In the past three years, St. John’s University has raised more than $150,000.
“A lot of my friends and family members have had cancer, so I’m here to support them,” Shah said. “Recently, my grandfather died, so I’m here to support him, as well.”Students who have been to other Relay for Life walks expected the large turnout.
“I do [Relays] at my high school and they’re usually pretty packed,” Fallon said.The turnout surprised some students who are new to the event.
“I was expecting a lot less turnout,” Shah said. “This is a lot more people than I expected.”