Carnesecca Arena—the setting for many athletic victories on the Queens, NY, campus of St. John’s University—recently saw students unite for a struggle more personal than any sporting event: fighting cancer. More than 1,300 students filled the arena for the University’s 14th annual Relay For Life event, which raised nearly $170,000—a new record.
Held on April 12–13, the 12-hour long event benefits the American Cancer Society. “We have a storied history at St. John’s of students fighting back against cancer,” said Kathryn T. Hutchinson, Ph.D., Vice President for the Division of Student Affairs, as she welcomed participants. “Tonight as you walk forth, reflect on the meaning of this event and your participation in it. May you always remember that the St. John’s way is to show compassion for all, especially those in need.”
“Relay For Life is a celebration of the human spirit,” observed Jack Flynn ’98C, ’05GEd, Director of Student Conduct; Advisor for Student Government, Inc.; and coordinator of this year’s event. “Every year, the University community comes together to celebrate our friends and family members who overcame their diagnosis and to remember those who were not as lucky,” Mr. Flynn noted. “Our fundraising efforts rely on the kindness of others, and we are simply overwhelmed by the generosity that people show toward those efforts.”
Students from 75 clubs and Greek organizations spent the evening and early morning marching the perimeter of Carnesecca Arena in honor of loved ones they have lost and loved ones who are currently fighting cancer.
This year’s student speaker was Jonathan Guerrero, a Health and Human Services major who was diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma with concentrations in the brain and lung. “I am a firm believer that the attitude you assume when facing any difficulty will dictate your outcome,” Jonathan stressed. “By going through this experience, God has used me to influence the lives of others here on earth.”
After surgery, six months of chemotherapy, and a stem cell transplant, Jonathan is in remission. “Today I am less than one month away from graduation. At the lowest point in my life, I was not able to speak, eat, or walk. I was like a newborn that had to learn everything. All I had was hope, prayer, and the support of my family and friends. I want to say to you all today, do not give up, no matter what struggles you may have.”
“I relay for all of my loved ones who have both won and lost their battle against cancer,” noted Joseph J. Hustins, a Government and Politics major who serves as one of the Relay For Life student co-chairs. “Throughout my college experience, I have been fortunate enough to spend time at Give Kids The World Village and the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Jerome L. Greene Family Center. I have made it my personal mission to do everything I can to help end cancer.”
Childhood Education major and member of the President’s Society for 2019–20, Giselle Athena R. Rosario lost her father to colon cancer. “Cancer hit home for me and inspired me to join Relay. Cancer affects so many families; I hope that one day it will not have a place in any home.”