Annual Relay for Life Brings Out Students

For years, Colgate students have paused as they walk into Frank Dining Hall to let Jean Brooks scan their ‘Gatecard. She’s a smiling, white-haired lady of small stature who happily greets every guest, and most students would recognize her (if not her name) immediately. In recent weeks, Jean was diagnosed with cancer, and was the guest of honor at this year’s Relay for Life event on March 7.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), over one million Americans get cancer each year. The disease has rapidly become a ubiquitous presence, affecting nearly every person in the world either directly or indirectly, and there has been an unprecedented level of charitable support for cancer research in the past 30 years.

Relay for Life, a charity foundation run by the ACS, raises over $400 million per year for cancer research by organizing unique walk-a-thon events all over the world. Individuals form teams and raise money by  pledging to walk around a track for hours on end. Each team has at least one member walking the track for a twelve-hour period, usually overnight.

For the past several years, Colgate has hosted a Relay for Life event organized by the Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) club on campus. This year’s turnout was perhaps the most impressive yet due in no

small part to the presence of “Jocks for Jean,” a large group of denim-clad Brooks supporters organized by the Colgate women’s basketball team.

In order to help pass the time, senior Dani Glassman and sophomore Molly Fox, who organized the event, arranged for ping-pong, Zumba, yoga, spinning and an aerobic “boot camp,” as well as concerts by Colgate a cappella groups, the Colgate Resolutions and the Swinging ‘Gates, and the jazz band No Standards. Local restaurants made generous contributions: the Hamilton Eatery provided an enormous spread at a discounted price, Oliveri’s Pizza donated 50 cheese pies at midnight and the Barge Canal Coffee Shop provided coffee at 2 a.m.

Sophomore Grace Tormey said that to prepare for the Relay, CAC created a theme, advertised the event in all possible ways and encouraged students to sign up for teams in order to maximize fundraising.

In all respects, the night was an uplifting affair. Even the more touching or somber moments, like Brooks’ opening remarks or the Luminaria ceremony, when the lights were dimmed and white bags filled with glowsticks to honor a loved one who has fought cancer, were overwhelmed by the sheer positivity of the evening. Brooks’ remarks were punctuated by bursts of enthusiastic applause, hundreds of students attended the event and hundreds more made donations and over a half-dozen businesses contributed food or supplies. Students participated well into the morning hours on a Friday night and thousands of dollars were raised.

Fox, who helped organized the program through her role in CAC, thought the event’s success was indicative of both cancer’s prevalence and the strength of the community.

“Cancer has touched everyone, whether directly or not. Because there are few cancer-related community events at Colgate, it was unique and really rewarding to see so many groups of students come together and support the cause,” Fox said.

303 people participated in this year’s event, forming a record 26 teams and raising over $31,000. Notably impressive performances were turned in by “Team Jim” and “Team Kappa,” both of which represented Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and collectively raised nearly $13,000, over a third of the total donation. Sigma Chi fraternity raised over $3,000 and Delta Upsilon contributed nearly $2,400. Greek organizations collectively made an impressive contribution, accounting for over $20,000 in collections.

Top participants from Colgate were sophomores Hannah Jones, Cameron Kline and Molly McKennan, who collectively raised more than $8,000.

Sigma Chi Fraternity Philanthropy Chair junior Christopher Singleton said, “I thought [Relay for Life] was pretty inspiring. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how many people would actually participate and work hard to raise money, but the gym was full of students who genuinely wanted to be there. Everyone I spoke to about donating was receptive and eager to help. It was really impressive.”

Brooks starts treatment soon and is quite confident that she will make the turn from “cancer patient” to “cancer survivor.” Noticeably touched by the evening’s events, Brooks could hardly turn around without being offered a hug and some encouraging words from a student. In particular, the women’s basketball team and the men’s football team made a point of supporting and spending time with Brooks, who attends as many Colgate athletic events as she can.

“Because we had planned for the event so far ahead in the future and thanks to the collaboration of many groups both on and off campus…it was a huge success,” Tormey said.

According to the national Relay website, the final tally for money raised by the Colgate community comes in at $31,887.01.

Contact Crozer Connor at [email protected].