Friday evening in the Rec Center gym, students from all across campus came together for Relay For Life, an event put on by Colleges Against Cancer at Rowan University.
The event started off with an opening ceremony at 6 p.m., which kicked off twelve hours of continuous events. The goal of Relay For Life is to form teams, which will work together to raise money through donations. According to the Relay For Life website, each team is encouraged to have at least one team member walking during the event to signify that cancer never sleeps.
For Emma Berkowitz, president of the Rowan University Colleges Against Cancer club and chair of this year’s Relay For Life event, having the student body come together was one of the things that made this event worthwhile.
“It’s so cool to see so many people from our community unite for one cause,” Berkowitz said. “And that’s the thing about cancer, it affects everyone. It doesn’t discriminate age, race, anything and we’re just really thankful to kind of have the platform to allow people to come out and celebrate, remember [and] fight back with us.”
Berkowitz also shared her personal reason for helping out with the event. On her name tag, as well as the name tags of others in attendance, names of friends and relatives who have battled cancer were featured. For Berkowitz, her late grandmother was her guiding inspiration.
“I actually lost my grandmother this [past] October to breast cancer,” Berkowitz said. “She was definitely a huge reason why I started relaying and this is my eighth relay. And so it’s just really full circle as she kind of gets to be here with us in a different way this year.”
Another relayer taking part in the event was Izzy Wellman, a sophomore communication studies major. She said that participating in Relay For Life was extremely important to her, as she had a family member impacted by cancer.
“My great aunt passed away this past summer from cancer, so it means a lot to me and especially because it’s such a close thing, so recently, and it just feels good to be here, be marching and feel like I’m doing something about it,” Wellman said.
While there were multiple activites and events throughout the night. The centerpiece was the Luminaria Ceremony. The lights in the gym were dimmed, as organizers asked attendees to light up glowsticks in order of survivors, caregivers and other assorted groups affected by cancer. After all the glowsticks had been activated, students moved upstairs to the Rec Center track for a silent lap, before coming down to resume the night’s activities.
Ramzi Habiby was another one of the marchers at Relay For Life. For him, the Luminaria Ceremony is always a major part of the Relay experience.
“I’ve been here a couple years, and every time [with] the Luminaria Ceremony, you wait for the cracks of the glowsticks, and it always gives me chills,” Habiby said. “It’s a really cool feeling, I don’t really know how to describe it, it just gives me chills all over the place and it means a lot to people and I really like that.”
Habiby noted there was hardly a dry eye in the house during the ceremony and in his opinion, it was because people really understand the scope of the issue.
“I think it’s the multitude of people that have been affected by this, and I think that everyone has some sort of connection towards it,” he said. “And if it’s not you personally, it’s someone you know. And sometimes some people don’t vocalize it until this moment, where you see that many people crying, and you didn’t realize how many people were affected by it.”
As of press time, according to Colleges Against Cancer, the annual overnight march raised over $36,000 for cancer research.
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