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Record Number of SJU Students Combat Cancer in Relay For Life

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Raising over $106,000 in contributions for the American Cancer Society (ACS), a record number of St. John’s students camped out from dusk until dawn in Carnesecca Arena on the Queens campus as the University participated in its ninth-annual Relay For Life®.

The 12-hour event—from 6 p.m. on Friday, April 4, to 6 a.m. on Saturday, April 5—drew more than 1,500 students, representing 120 clubs and organizations. Contributions to this year’s Relay will continue through June.

Throughout the night, students marched around the gym’s perimeter with cancer survivors and caregivers. They camped on blankets stretched across the mat-covered floor boards. The center court served as a vast auditorium, with folding chairs, a video screen, and a podium topped by purple-and-white balloons as well as a DJ; the SJU Pep Band, dancers, and cheerleaders; and hundreds of Lumineria—glowing memorial bags honoring those who lost their battle with cancer.

The Staten Island campus will hold its own Relay For Life from 6 p.m. on Friday, May 2, to midnight on Saturday, May 3. More than 200 students—including 20 clubs—will camp out in the gymnasium to raise funds toward the event’s $25,000 goal.

An Outpouring of Love

“Relay For Life is a wonderful opportunity to fight back, raise money, and celebrate everyone who’s survived,” said Student Government President Elizabeth Sheehan ’14C, who coordinated the event with a committee of students and a corps of volunteers including faculty, administrators, and alumni.

Solidarity with those affected by cancer has made this the University’s “largest on-campus fundraiser,” said Mary H. Pelkowski, associate dean for student engagement. She mentioned a special reason for her participation: “I walk in honor of my mom, my best friend and biggest hero, and for the many children at Give Kids the World. I truly believe that one day we’ll find a cure, and together, we’ll finish this fight!”

Sharing his own experiences, Daniel Trujillo, Ph.D., associate vice president and dean of students, delivered keynote remarks. He recalled his first Relay For Life in 2012, after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which he had battled 20 years before. “I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, support, and caring,” he said. “The compassion of St. John’s students is incredible—they take the University’s Vincentian mission to heart so intuitively.”

Fighting Back

A series of videos offered further examples of cancer’s toll. The names and faces of many who fought and succumbed—and others who survived—appeared on the screen.

“I’ve worked with other colleges and universities,” said Meaghan Neary, special events manager for ACS. “I’ve never seen a more dedicated group of volunteers, so committed to supporting such an important cause.”

“A lot of us have had friends and family who’ve been affected by cancer,” said Katie Dineen ’15ED, who cochairs, with Morgan Wright ’15ED, the Student Affairs Committee that organizes the event. “This is our way of fighting back.”

Marking its ninth year of participation, Lambda Kappa Sigma, a professional organization for women in pharmacy, raised $10,000. Newer organizations also have embraced the cause. “Cancer’s taken a toll on so many people—my own relatives included,” said Arcangelo Pettreta ’15TCB, treasurer of Pi Lambda Phi, in its second year at SJU. “We’re determined to do what we can to contribute to this effort.”