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Student-Run Relay for Life Raises Over $140,000 to Fight Cancer

Monday, April 18, 2016

In a strong show of solidarity, 1,835 St. John’s students joined to raise a record $140,341 for the fight against cancer as part of the University’s 11th Annual Relay For Life®.

The 12-hour event, which benefits the American Cancer Society (ACS), began at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 15, and ended at 6 a.m. the following morning. According to ACS, St. John’s holds the 2016 New York State record for student participation to date.

Student participation also set a record, as more than 115 teams, student clubs, and Greek organizations spent the night on the court of Carnesecca Arena. Marching around the perimeter, they raised funds, demonstrated support for those who have survived cancer, and remembered friends and loved ones who have not.

Welcoming participants, Kathryn T. Hutchinson, Ph.D., Vice President for Student Affairs, offered praise and encouragement. “As a University community, we are incredibly proud of you, our students,” she said. “May you always remember the St. John’s way is the way of showing compassion for all and assisting those in need.”

Men’s Basketball Head Coach Chris Mullin, whose brother is battling cancer, also spoke to the crowd. “One of the reasons I came back to St. John’s was the sense of community here,” he said. “This is what it’s all about. When you see a group of people like this, it’s amazing.”

The Staten Island campus  holds its own Relay for Life at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 22. More than 200 students—including 10 clubs—will camp out until midnight in the campus center gymnasium to raise funds toward their $30,000 goal.

“Honoring Those We Love”

In his keynote address, Robert A. Mangione, Ed.D., R.Ph., Provost, set an upbeat tone for the evening. “We are all here tonight because cancer has changed our lives, but we live on,” he said. Mangione is a cancer survivor whose wife succumbed to the disease. “We are not here to dread cancer or to fear it—we are here to celebrate hope. We are here to celebrate life.”

While some students participated in the walk simply to support a worthy cause, many raised funds to honor cancer survivors or to remember victims of the disease.

Alexandra Kaiser ’17Ed was a freshman when her father was diagnosed with colon cancer. “My best friend was a co-chair of the entertainment committee on Relay for Life,” Kaiser said,” and she knew I needed to do something positive with the anger, frustration, and worry that were results of my dad's diagnosis.” she recalled. “I went to a meeting and I was hooked. I felt supported and empowered to make a difference in the fight against cancer.”

Rosalie Messina ’18CPS, a communications studies major, walked for her mother, a survivor, and her grandfather, who passed from colon cancer. “It’s more than just raising money," she said. "It’s a means of solidarity and a way to perpetuate hope.”

Pharmacy major Mark Hanna ’19Pharm.D. had a similar rationale for participating. “I relay for the kids who lose their parents, and the parents who lose their children,” he said. “I relay to create more birthdays, more smiles, and more loving memories.”

Embracing Hope and Faith

Dimitrios Savva ’16Pharm.D. was in high school when he began raising money to combat cancer. He has participated in Relay for Life since his freshman year at St. Johns. The $9,000 he raised this year was the highest for any student at the University. “When I seek a donation,” he explained, “I make sure that people understand what Relay for Life is and why it’s so important.” He is a member of the Phi Delta Chi pharmacy fraternity, which raised more than $17,000.

“I have had the pleasure of serving as the Administrative Chair of Relay for Life for the past five years,” said Mary H. Pelkowski, Associate Dean for Student Engagement. “This year’s Relay was truly about hope–the hope and faith that one day we will finish this fight and find a cure.”

Donations for Relay for Life at both campuses will continue through June 1.

“Each year, St. John’s students raise more money to help fund the lifesaving mission of the American Cancer Society,” said Meaghan Neary, Senior Community Manager, ACS.  “The American Cancer Society could not be more grateful.”