By Megan Lupo
Walking around the track with his Sigma Phi Epsilon brothers, junior finance major Jimmy Freel was in awe of the Rider community, which came together to donate to and raise awareness for the university’s ninth annual Relay for Life for the American Cancer Society on March 24 and 25.
Freel, a five-time Relay participant, said, “It’s pretty cool to see how, in such minimal time, we can raise so much money to keep trying to find a cure.”
Rider raised $54,256.99 at this year’s event, according to senior accounting major and Relay co-chair Rushil Jain. Although the $60,000 goal wasn’t reached when the event ended, fundraising will last until the end of the semester.
This year’s Rider Relay was jam-packed with original activities, inspiring speeches and emotional ceremonies.
“We had a ton of activities this year — Zumba, a lip-sync battle, wing-eating contest, frozen T-shirt contest, DJ So Wavveyy dance party, relay race and more,” junior French major and Relay Luminarias and Ceremonies chair Lexie Livesey said. “We have an entire committee dedicated to planning the entertainment for the night.”
According to Jain, “The most successful activity this year was the Jail. We raised over $2,000 alone from the Jail.”
Students could pay money to have their friends stay inside a wooden enclosure near the stage, and to be released, they would need to raise four times the amount.
Livesey added, “People really love getting to throw their friends into fake jail.”
One of the more unique games of the night was the “hand-on-car challenge,” during which students competed to keep their hand on the 2018 Cruisin’ From Commencement car the longest to win $300.
Freel was one of the participants and maintained contact with the car for a little over three hours.
“A couple of people wanted me to do it, and they all threw in money for me to do it. The money is going to a great cause, and if it can help make a difference, I don’t mind entering a competition to help raise money,” said Freel, whose great-grandmother had cancer.
Freel withdrew from the competition after his roommate took his hand off the car to take part in the other activities.
In addition to the original activities throughout the night, the event still honored the Relay’s traditions, such as the Luminaria ceremony, which involves decorating paper bags and placing a candle inside as a tribute to those who have died of cancer.
Jain said, “The chills spread up my spine as everyone understood the severity of that moment. That was the moment we celebrated who we had cried over, who we lost and comforted who we loved. If all future Relays have at least this, then I know we would have made an impact on the lives of our students.”
The preparation for the Relay for Life committees and co-chairs began in fall 2017 when positions were assigned to each volunteer, according to Jain, who has helped plan Relay for the past three years.
In addition to her role of overseeing the different committee teams, she was responsible for “picking up any slack, organizing and taking minutes for the meetings, creating spreadsheets for the budget and any logistics and making sure the leaders are completing their to-do lists for the event.”
The stress of the co-chairs was heightened on the day of Relay when Jain and the rest of the committees began decorating in the morning to ensure a successful aesthetic and setup.
“We make sure all the tables are reserved, and the floor is taped out for the teams. There is a lot of communication with [107.7] The Bronc and the speakers to make sure everything is sticking to the schedule and nothing is going wrong,” Jain said. Months of organizing, fundraising and executing turned out to be worth all the obstacles, as this year’s Relay had one of the highest numbers of participants in Rider’s history.
Four-time participant Livesey said, “Our turnout this year was outstanding. We had 773 participants register online before the event. This number doesn’t even include all of the people who registered in person at the event. We got well over 100 more participants who registered on paper before the event.”
Livesey believes the reason why Rider had many participants was because cancer affects every person.
“Relay is hope and healing. We raise so much money at every Relay for Life event, so I truly feel that the cure for cancer is within arm’s reach. We had every Greek organization, we had different learning communities, families or performing groups,” Livesey said. “It really is a beautiful thing to see all of these different people from different walks of life come together for the American Cancer Society.”
This year, Jain hoped to encourage students to stay past 3 a.m. and get more Greek Life members involved with the event, as banners representing their Greek Week Mardi Gras theme hung from the track.
To improve Relay for next year, Freel hopes sports teams are more involved.
Livesey does not doubt that the Rider community will raise the almost $6,000 needed to reach the goal, due to the impact that the Relay event has on students.
“Out of any college campus I have ever visited, I have never seen another community like that of Rider,” Livesey said. “I think an event like this really fosters that sense of community. We can all come together on one night to do something really special.”
Printed in the 3/27/18 edition.