Determination and strength filled the hearts of Rider students, faculty, staff and their families on March 25 as they joined in the fight against cancer through the annual Relay for Life walk in the Student Recreation Center (SRC).
Since the initial walk in 2009, Rider has hosted nine Relay for Life walks, raising over $425,000 for The American Cancer Society, and providing clubs and organizations with the proper tools to donate and join the cause to help end cancer. Beginning with a few opening statements by this year’s Relay for Life committee, the event was then introduced by a very special member of Rider’s faculty who explained how Relay for Life has made an impact on his experience with cancer.
“Cancer doesn’t discriminate,” said Dean of Students Ira Mayo of his dealings with prostate cancer. “Be aware and listen to your bodies. Please treat them well.”
Now cancer-free for eight years, Mayo thanked the volunteers for their time and support, and encouraged them to remember those who have died from cancer and are still struggling with it.
Next, met with a thunderous applause rivaling the noise level of just scoring a winning touchdown, a handful of cancer survivors took their much-deserved first lap around the track. This reminded the participants of why Relay for Life is such an important event for communities around the globe.
The track was opened up later in the night for volunteers to take laps, participate in activities and provide more donations for the worthy cause.
Guest speaker and senior American studies major Ruth Del Pino also discussed her journey with Stage I ovarian cancer and provided a look at the disease through the eyes of the younger generation.
“I may be your RA, your SGA representative, your classmate or your friend,” said Del Pino. “And thanks to The American Cancer Society I have celebrated four more birthdays since my diagnosis and two birthdays since being cancer free.”
Del Pino stressed that every person is a survivor in one way or another and, although the disease was relentless and exhausting, it gave her the courage and guidance she did not have before she was diagnosed.
“We are all equally survivors in other aspects of life and we are all valid in bearing our personal crosses,” said Del Pino. “It was a long process, but I had eventually been awakened to see the value of my existence. It forced me to like myself enough to want to fight. I am a cancer survivor and I’m here to celebrate with my family, friends and all of you.”
Del Pino concluded her speech with an inspiring quote by late make-up artist, photographer and author Kevin Aucoin.
‘“Today, I choose life,’” Del Pino recited. ‘“Every morning when I wake up, I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain…to feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices. Today, I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but to embrace it.’”
The most emotional segment of Rider’s relay, the Luminaria ceremony, took place later in the night. It honored those who dealt with and died from cancer.
Participants were invited to partake in a silent lap in semidarkness to symbolize the feeling a patient gets after being diagnosed. Glow sticks were provided to light the way for all of those affected by cancer.
After exiting the track, committee members stressed that remembrance of life is also an important aspect of coping with a life lost to cancer and encouraged participants to enjoy the rest of the night in honor of the loved ones they have lost.
Games, food and service opportunities were provided until the closing ceremony at 5 a.m. where throngs of exhausted Rider students exited the SRC feeling alive, jubilant and ready to continue to fight for a world with more birthdays.
Printed in the 3/29/17 edition.