After two years of being held virtually, the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life made a bold return on April 22 to St. John’s Carnesecca Arena, as 634 members of the University community walked to raise more than $65,500 for cancer research.
“It felt good to see so many people in Carnesecca Arena tonight,” said Jack Flynn, Assistant Dean of Students, Director of Student Conduct, and coplanner of the event. “I’m always impressed and humbled by the generous spirit of our students who raise so much money for such a worthy cause.”
Kathryn T. Hutchinson, Ph.D., Vice President, Division of Student Affairs, echoed that sentiment. “The enthusiasm from the student teams participating in Relay For Life was palpable,” she said.
“It was wonderful to resume this event in person after two years of hosting it virtually. I am so proud of the resiliency our students exhibited over the past two years in keeping the spirit of Relay alive on campus.”
Since 2006, the St. John’s community has raised more than $1.3 million for Relay For Life.
“College students are our future and inspire us with their passion and energy in support of the American Cancer Society’s mission to save lives and put an end to cancer,” said Leslie Orlovsky, Senior Development Manager, American Cancer Society. “To see so many students register to participate and raise funds in support of cancer patients is awe-inspiring, and we are so grateful for the continued generosity and support from the student body, faculty, administrators, staff, and alumni.”
This was the first in-person Relay experience for many attendees as the event was held virtually in 2020 and 2021, Ms. Orlovsky explained. Throughout those two virtual campaigns, St. John’s students and others raised nearly $62,000.
Senior Courtney Bedingfield, a Photography major from Reading, MA, has participated in Relay For Life every year since she has been a student at St. John’s and has served on the event’s planning committee for three years.
“Cancer has affected so many people I know and love that it inspired me to join Relay For Life,” she reflected. “In October of 2018, my older sister, Katie, was diagnosed with brain cancer, and in May of 2020, my best friend, Gracie, was as well.”
Katie passed away in July of last year; however, throughout her battle, Courtney witnessed the impact and importance of funding cancer research.
“Katie underwent chemotherapy as a part of a clinical trial that is at the cutting edge of brain tumor research,” she said. “Her trial and progress would not have been possible without generous people who donate to cancer research.”
According to the American Cancer Society, 73 cents of every dollar raised through Relay goes directly to research, prevention, detection, education, and patient support. There are undoubtedly countless stories of people who have defeated cancer thanks, in part, to funds raised by the event.
Among those survivors is Daniel Abbamonte, brother of Sabrina Abbamonte, a senior Marketing major from Lindenhurst, NY, who participated in this year’s Relay in his honor. Sabrina also delivered the Relay For Life welcome address.
“My brother was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma when he was three years old,” she said. “He fought a long and extremely hard battle, and we were blessed that he won—which is not something everyone is lucky enough to say.”
Daniel is now 24 years old.
“Throughout my life, I have known more and more people who have been diagnosed with cancer,” she added, “and that continues to fuel my passion for helping those affected.”
St. John’s Staten Island Campus hosted its Relay For Life event the same evening, raising more than $20,000.
“After a brief hiatus, it was great to see the University community back again together fundraising for a good cause,” said David Gachigo, Associate Dean of Student Affairs, St. John’s Staten Island Campus. “Our Staten Island Johnnies responded to a call by the American Cancer Society in the spirit of our Vincentian Mission. That is the St. John’s way!”