By Hannah Newman and Bridget Gum-Egan
RIDER raised over $30,000 for the American Cancer Society (ACS) during the 2023 Relay for Life, taking place on campus over the weekend even through inclement weather precautions.
The primary goal of ACS is to raise money for cancer research, along with assisting families and patients with transportation and living expenses while coming together as a community to honor those who are fighting, survivors and those who have courageously lost their lives to cancer.
“For six hours every spring, it is able to unite students, faculty, staff, and others from every corner of the Rider community in the fight against cancer,” said senior human resources major and co-chair of Relay for Life, Jenna Muller in an email interview. “Everyone comes out and has a great time, under the same cause, and it is truly amazing to see the work everyone puts into the event. I am so proud to have been able to bring this event back onto campus after COVID, and to see the success we’ve had in the last two years.”
The event began with survivors taking the first lap around the track, followed by those who are participating.
This event included a variety of different activities such as board game tournaments, a pie-eating contest, a dodgeball tournament and a scavenger hunt. There were also performances by the Rider Pep Band and Dance Team, as well as from freshman liberal arts major Toby Trish and sophomore film major Will Dusinberre.
This year’s theme was board games in which, “Knock Cancer off the Board” was the slogan that displayed how the theme correlated to the cause. Another fun and unique element to this event is where teams can set up a “campsite” and decorate their designated area to match their individualized creation of the theme. Every team created a banner of their board game and some even dressed up like candy canes in representing the game “CandyLand.”
A variety of different clubs and organizations across campus participated in the event, all contributed to the successful total raised for ACS, including club sports, Greek Life, academic clubs and beyond.
Not only did each team raise money independently and donate through the different activities that were provided to participate in, but there were other opportunities to fundraise. The “Go to Jail” section allowed participants to send their friends “to jail” after making a donation, and the person who is sent to jail has to raise double the amount that the person who sent them in donated in order to be released.
Each year there is a survivor speaker, who speaks at the event about the battle they fought. This year’s Provost DonnaJean Fredeen shared her story and touched the lives of many after tears crept down the faces of those listening.
Senior marketing major and co-chair for Relay for Life Kayla Wagner, in an email interview, said, “In looking for guest speakers, we really wanted to have speakers who our campus community would feel connected to. I’m very grateful that Provost Fredeen was so open to and excited about sharing her story as our survivor speaker at the event.”
While explaining her role in the making of Relay for Life, Wagner explained her ambition to work hard for the cause and the personal effect it had on her world outside of college.
“Cancer has affected the lives of my family and friends in various ways. Personally, my mom is a thyroid cancer survivor, but my personal connection to this cause really comes from my drive to help and unite others in this fight and make a difference,” said Wagner. “I would just want to emphasize that cancer, unfortunately, is something that has, in some way, impacted all of our lives, regardless of how large or small that impact may be. I am passionate about Relay for Life because it is a way for all of us to come together with our desire to make a difference and take action in the fight against cancer in common.”
While the event opened with a guest speaker, it also ended with the inspiring words of a “Fight Back Speaker,” which is someone who encourages the reasons to fight and the personal impact this cause had on their life.
Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Planning Debbie Stasolla was the 2023 Fight Back Speaker.
Muller said she knew that Stasolla would be a match when she was seeking a candidate speaker for this part of the event.
“I personally have gotten to know Debbie throughout my job on campus and the various activities I participate in, and when I saw that she was signed-up to participate in Relay, I reached out to her right away to see if she would be interested to speak at the event,” said Muller. “The purpose of this speech is to motivate the crowd even though we have done so well with fundraising, the work will not be over until we find a cure.”
One other closing element to the event is the Luminaria Ceremony, where participants can purchase luminaria bags, bags that can be decorated and lit to honor loved ones affected by cancer, and light up the walking track with them.
As a final event of the night, students walked the track that was lined with lights in silence as they honored those whom they fight for. The closing ceremony brought out the most tears and embracing of one another as the six-hour night closed with the feeling of recognition among all who participated.