Friday, October 30, 2020

Relay for Life raises money for a cure

Tents, pop-up canopies, air mattresses and sofas covered the gym floor at the field house last Friday night as about 1,000 people gathered for PSUC’s 2018 Relay for Life to fight for a cure.  

Jaw cancer survivor and PSUC audio-radio production major Patricia Davenport cut the ribbon during the opening ceremony. Survivors and caregivers in attendance walked the opening lap, and then hundreds of participants flooded the track to walk beside them.

“It’s a great way to show the community coming together,” Alpha Delta Phi Society team member Kaitlyn Connelly said.

One of those survivors was Paul Stevens, a Merchant Marine engineer who was diagnosed last March with sarcoma, a soft-tissue cancer, in his leg. A month later, he went under the knife.

“They took out a 5-inch tumor,” he said. “I was out of work for 24 weeks.”

Stevens has been volunteering at the PSUC Relay for Life for five years.

“I just like to help people,” he said.

About 48 teams participated in the 12-hour event, which ran from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday, including many greek organizations and campus clubs.

Before the day of the Relay, Colleges Against Cancer, which organizes the event, had raised $40,000 of their $60,000 goal for cancer research donations.

Colleges Against Cancer member Erika Amodeo said that in the four years she has been involved, “that is the best starting point we’ve had.”

The club began to plan the Relay for Life during the fall semester, and they put in a lot of work to make it happen, she said.

“We start as soon as we get to school in August.”

 Throughout the night, activities and entertainment such as a pie eating contest, performances by PSUC dance clubs and a scavenger hunt helped keep participants going.

The college has held a Relay for Life for more than 10 years. The event is intended to raise money for cancer research, but it also provides an opportunity for participants to honor cancer survivors, remember loved ones lost and raise awareness for the disease. And cancer has affected many participants’ families.  

“My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, and she is now a survivor,” Amodeo said. “And my grandfather passed away from cancer, and I never got to meet him.”

She kept them in mind throughout the night, she said.

Connelly and Deena Bader, also a member of the Alpha Delta Phi Society team, have felt the effects of cancer in their families as well. They both have a grandmother who was diagnosed. And they have both attended PSUC’s Relay for Life for the past three years.

“Our goal is just to keep walking throughout the night,” Bader said.

Bader always looks forward to the silent lap when the lights go out. Participants light luminarias and walk the track in candlelight to remember those who have lost their battle with the disease.  

“It’s a really nice tribute.”

Colleges Against Cancer Mission Chair Tyler Beauchemin was working at the club’s bone-marrow drive set up near the track. He said a medical scare in his family inspired him to get get involved.

One of his relatives developed an aneurysmal cyst a couple years ago, which required multiple surgeries.  

“He was like my brother,” he said. “They thought he had bone cancer at first. Then they realized it was a cyst. That’s one of the main reasons I joined.”  

And Beauchemin was impressed by this year’s turnout.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “It’s good to raise people’s spirits.”

Connelly said, “The turnout has been really great the past three years.”

Stevens agreed.

“A lot of people I saw last year are here again,” he said. “Yeah, I know I’m a survivor, but it’s about helping people.”

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