Cancer affects families all over the world on a daily basis, including many here at John Carroll University, where even some students have faced battles with the dangerous disease that kills thousands every year.
This past Saturday, April 14, JCU gave those members of the campus community a chance to reflect on their experiences with cancer whether it was themselves or a family member, at the annual Relay for Life event.
The event kicked off at noon as students and University Heights community members set up tables for fundraising, and began walking their first lap around the track around the top level of the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center. Although rain had brought the event inside for the day, spirits remained high all throughout the day for those participating.
“I love the feeling of community during those hours you spend with your team and the rest of the John Carroll community,” said junior Hallie Fetterman, who has participated in JCU’s Relay events in the past.
Throughout the day, participants were invited to walk the track continuously, stop at the arrangement of on-site fundraisers set up by many of the JCU organizations as well as local community organizations and even enjoyed some fun and games down on the gym floor. Those were followed by some live performances by student bands, and even karaoke. “I think the relay team does a really great job of planning activities throughout the night, like volleyball, musical performances and karaoke,” said Fetterman.
Considered by some to be the most powerful part of the whole ceremony, though, is the Luminaria ceremony that commenced around 9 p.m. on Saturday night. This year, Andrew Adjei, a JCU junior and cancer survivor; Matt Hiznay, a JCU alumni and cancer survivor and Cory Gotowka, a JCU senior whose father survived a battle with cancer, all spoke at the ceremony and shared their stories. After their stories left some in tears, everyone took a silent lap as people had the chance to reflect on their connection with cancer, and the day as a whole.
When the function finally came to a close, $26,426 had been raised for cancer research, about $8,000 less than the previous year.
The program itself was planned and executed by a leadership committee made up of current JCU students, including senior Patti Mariano who coordinated the entire event.
“I really appreciated the participation of the teams that attended both fundraising before the event and participating in activities during the event,” Mariano said. “I thought that the event was a lot of fun, especially considering the circumstances of having to move inside because of the weather.”
Although the money total may have been less than previous years, it was apparent that the meaning of Relay for Life was clearer than ever, according to several members of the Relay leadership team.
“For me, Relay for Life stands for humanity and compassion. I have not had cancer myself, but I think that gives me even more reason to fight for and be in solidarity with those that have,” Fetterman said.
For Mariano and the leadership team, it was showing that meaning and touching the lives of those involved that made the event a true success in their eyes.
“Each and every member of the team really stepped up [at] the event to make it a success.”