St. John's Relay for Life Breaks Record

Monday, April 22, 2013

On a night dedicated to honoring survivors, remembering victims and saving lives, St. John’s University’s student-run, eighth annual Relay for Life raised a record-breaking $105,130 in contributions to the American Cancer Society.

The 12-hour event, starting at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 19, drew more than 1,800 participants—including 1,639 students—to Carnesecca Arena on the Queens, NY, campus. They transformed the basketball court into a festive great hall filled with folding chairs, purple-and-white balloons and blankets as students prepared to camp there overnight.

The second annual Relay for Life at St. John’s Staten Island campus raised $24,595, nearly $10,000 over goal. The six-hour event, also held at 6 p.m. on April 19, drew more than 250 students and guests to the Campus Center Gym for food, raffles and live entertainment.

Reflecting St. John’s global scope, the University held the first Relays for Life at its international locations—the campus in Rome, Italy, and academic centers in Paris, France, and Seville, Spain.

“Relay for Life has gone global at St. John’s,” said Kathryn T. Hutchinson, Ph.D., Vice President for Student Affairs. “Many students who study abroad during the spring semester said they would miss being able to attend.” So one student, Kevin Grover ’13TCB, helped to organize Relays for Life at St. John’s international locations. “I’m so proud of all our students and the passion and dedication they show year after year for this wonderful event,” she said.

Powerful Examples of Leadership
At the Queens campus, Steve Lavin, Head Coach of the men’s basketball team, delivered a keynote address recounting his own battle with prostate cancer. The audience rose in a standing ovation when Lavin announced his $8,000 donation to put total contributions at more than $100,000, far surpassing this year’s goal of $82,000.

Lavin also led the annual procession of cancer survivors in a ceremonial lap around the court. Joining him at the front of the line were Lavin’s 79-year-old mother, Mary, and St. John’s graduate Sean Latshaw ’12CPS—both survivors themselves.

“I want to begin by commending you,” Lavin told students. “You are setting the most powerful example of leadership there is—leadership through your example of taking action. As someone who has survived cancer, I find your efforts, energy and passion to support this vital cause to be truly inspiring. Looking around, I see a number of championship banners gracing these walls, representing the great athletes and coaches who have come through here. But tonight, you are the champions.”

As the St. John’s dance team performed, the evening began with music from the University band. Participants lit more than 700 Luminaria—glowing memorial bags—in honor of those who lost the battle to cancer. Throughout the night, members of 121 student clubs, athletic teams and Greek societies danced, marched in laps around the basketball court and participated in other activities. Designated the “VIP Lounge,” a tent was erected for the student club that raised the most money.

“Galvanized” to Serve
Planning began quickly after the conclusion of last April’s Relay, said Morgan Wright ’14Ed, Chair of the Student Affairs Committee. “We did well last year,” she said, “but we were sure we could raise more money for cancer research.” Working with Greek and other organizations, the committee raised Relay awareness by cosponsoring a wide range of promotional activities, including a barbecue, pie throwing and a lip-sync contest.

“The level of commitment I’ve found at St. John’s is remarkable,” said Meaghan Neary, a Special Events Manager with ACS. “These are some of the most dedicated students I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”

For Lavin, the evening was uplifting. “As I often tell the teams I coach,” he said, “the energy tonight is palpable…cancer is a dreaded disease, yet it can be a teacher. It heightens our sense of how fragile life can be, and how precious our time with loved ones is. Cancer has touched all our lives and compels us to see through a different lens, often increasing the appreciation for the most central priorities of faith, family and good health. This has been a moving evening for my mother and me—one we will always remember.”

Relay for Life is an international effort through which communities and organizations raise funds for cancer research, celebrate the courage of survivors and honor those who have died. Since ACS began the program in 1986, the Relays have expanded to 21 other countries.