St. John’s Community Looks Forward to In-Person Relay For Life

April 6, 2022

Three years since the St. John’s University community last gathered together as one to support cancer research, Relay For Life returns as an in-person campus event on April 22.

Teams of cancer survivors, caregivers, and others eager to support the mission of the American Cancer Society, Inc. will gather at Carnesecca Arena in a renewal of a University tradition that has raised more than $1.5 million since 2006.

Registration begins at 5 p.m.; the relay kicks off at 6 p.m. and concludes at midnight. The 2020 and 2021 relays were conducted virtually.

“The virtual events were great, but it’s not the same as having everyone come together as a group,” said coplanner Jack Flynn, the University’s Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Student Conduct. “Every dollar we raise is a dollar closer to a cure.”

As at the last on-campus relay in 2019, a survivor’s lap begins the event, and luminaria bags placed inside Carnesecca Arena recall those lost to the disease. Participants walk a loop laid out in the arena, continuing for as long as they are willing or until midnight. Participants are welcome to form teams of walkers to enhance fundraising efforts.    

Walkers can register and/or donate online or through the American Cancer Society’s mobile fundraising app available on the App Store or Google Play.

“Almost everyone knows someone who has been impacted by cancer,” Mr. Flynn said. “Partnering with the American Cancer Society speaks to the University’s mission, which is to provide help for all who need it.”

One of those directly impacted is Jennifer A. Grauso, the St. John’s Director of Career Development Programming, University Career Services, and Mr. Flynn’s coplanner of the event.

Twelve years ago, Ms. Grauso was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Radiation and chemotherapy treatments did not eliminate all of the disease. While healthier today, she still undergoes treatment. 

“The event is in the true spirit of compassion inspired by St. Vincent de Paul,” Ms. Grauso said.  “We’re excited for a return to campus to raise awareness and funds. We are trying to free the world from cancer.”

Leslie Orlovsky is the American Cancer Society’s liaison to the St. John’s relay. She worked on the very first St. John’s event and marvels at its expansion since 2006. “The first relay was very different,” Ms. Orlovsky said. “To have seen how much it has grown and to see all of the student participation is amazing.”

Monies raised extend beyond research, Ms. Orlovsky said. Proceeds also support treatment programs, emotional support for patients and their families, transportation to and from hospitals, and more.

Count Ms. Orlovsky among those excited to see the relay’s return to campus. “Last year, when it was a virtual event, the students still raised money,” she said. “But this year they have a chance to make an even bigger impact. So, yes, we are thrilled to be back in person.”