Annual Relay For Life Event Goes Virtual

St. John's University Relay for Life Logo
April 21, 2020

Undeterred by the adversity in the current socially-distanced world, nearly 400 St. John’s students pledged to do their part to fight cancer by participating in Relay For Life, which took place online from April 13 through 17.

“I am incredibly proud of the resilience of the St. John’s University community,” said Kathryn T. Hutchinson, Ph.D., Vice President for the Division of Student Affairs, in her welcome message to students. “The fact that Relay For Life continues under quarantine conditions is a perfect example of the power of St. John’s students.”

Since 2006, the St. John’s University community has raised almost $1.5 million dollars for the American Cancer Society, Inc., the beneficiary of Relay For Life fundraising. This year, St. John’s University students have raised nearly $34,000 for Relay For Life.

According to Morgan Wright, Community Development Manager for the American Cancer Society, all of the organization’s in-person activities are canceled until May 15. “However,” she said, “we wanted to give the St. John’s community the Relay For Life experience that they were looking forward to in April.”

With a large, public gathering out of the question, the primary challenge for this year’s Relay committee was how to turn what was once a 12-hour, in-person event into a virtual one—without losing the emotion and impact of the original. The answer was to transform the traditional Relay For Life—which normally ran inside Carnesecca Arena from 6 p.m. on a Friday evening until 6 a.m. the following morning—into a weeklong, virtual event on Instagram and Facebook.  

The five-day event included video tributes to those who were lost to the disease; a virtual presentation of luminaria, each representing a life taken by cancer, a survivor of cancer, or support for a person still fighting the disease; plus a wide range of group activities, including live, online Zumba classes and a performance by DJ Anthony on Instagram and Twitch.

“We never lost faith or hope,” said cochair Andrew Kilada, a senior studying Biology. “No matter the magnitude of the obstacles, we always knew we had an incredible committee and the St. John’s community there offering support. It was a combined effort every step of the way; given our circumstances, I would not have changed a single thing.”

This year’s top fundraising team was Lambda Kappa Sigma, Alpha Pi Chapter, who raised more than $7,500. They have been awarded a National Relay For Life Award as a “Team of Excellence” in each of the past two years.

“Relay For Life shows us the power of leadership—that despite all of us continuing our lives in quarantine, we were still able to run a successful event,” said cochair Jasleen Gill, also a senior Biology major. “It was all made possible because of our amazing advisors and hardworking committee.” 

“Relay For Life unites communities all over the world, and I am incredibly proud of the work that the St. John’s committee put in this year,” added Ms. Wright. “Cancer does not stop—so neither will our efforts.”