Four Years of Fighting Back: Students to partake in sleepless night for a cause

By Katie Zeck

For the fourth year in a row Rider will be participating in what the American Cancer Society calls “the world’s biggest fight for more birthdays.”

Relay for Life begins tomorrow, March 24 in the Student Recreation Center (SRC) at 8 p.m.

According to Relay For Life Event Chairperson Lindsay Galbraith, this year’s Relay for Life will be superhero-themed.   She hopes to encourage more participation by changing a few of the event’s details and competition categories, as well as bringing in survivors to speak about their experiences with cancer.

“Last year we had about 1,000 participants and we would like even more this year,” Galbraith said. “We hope that with changing the time frame for the event to now run from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., it will work out better schedule-wise and encourage [participants] to stay the whole night. It’s not required, but my committee has been working so hard to make Relay more interactive this year and having entertainment the whole night.”

The motto for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life is “Celebrate, Remember, Fight Back.” Rider’s Relay For Life will take place this weekend; the University has raised over $28,000 so far.

Relay For Life is an overnight walk-a-thon that aims to raise money and awareness about cancer’s far-reaching effects. Currently, Rider’s Relay For Life has a total of 64 teams, 818 participants and has raised approximately $28,900 as of Thursday afternoon.

Rider’s Relay For Life committee has also changed the system for awards. Now, there is an award for the top fundraising Greek organization and a separate award for the top fundraising non-Greek club or organization.

“In addition to the change in the awards presented, we are also implementing virtual survivors,” Galbraith said. “If you have a friend or loved one that survived cancer but cannot be present at the event, you can celebrate them by walking and carrying a purple balloon on their behalf during the survivor walk.”

Relay participants will also hear from freshman Ali Knepple about her experience with cancer, as she is this year’s keynote speaker.

“I approached Lindsay [Galbraith] and the other coordinators of Relay at Awareness Day and told them I was a survivor, and then later Lindsay contacted me to be the keynote speaker,” Knepple said. “I figured it’s a good time to share my story, since I’ve only shared it with my close friends so far.”

Knepple, a sociology major from Lynbrok, N.Y., was diagnosed with bone cancer in her junior year of high school.

“I was really lucky and didn’t need any treatments or anything, just two surgeries that got rid of all the cancer,” she said. “Now I just have to go back every six months and get a bone scan to make sure everything is OK.”

As a cancer survivor, Knepple feels that Relay is an important event that every student should attend.

“I’ve participated in Relay twice before; it shows how cancer has an impact on everyone,” she said. “It’s good to know that there are so many people that are willing come together and fight for a common cause.”

With the total amount raised by the university rising every hour, Galbraith is hoping to reach and exceed the $60,000 that was raised last year.

“A lot of people like to sit on their money until the very last minute to make more of a show out of it,” she said. “We also have a lot of on-site fundraising.”

One of these on-site fundraisers is Rider’s highly anticipated Miss Relay Pageant. The pageant proceeds as any other pageant would, but the contestants are male team members who dress in drag and have 15 minutes to collect as much money as possible from fellow Relay participants.

According to Galbraith, entertainment, food, games and on-site fundraising will happen all night long. Highlights for the evening include a performance by R Factor winner Erik Krieg, a comedy show by Cristela Alonzo, an a cappella performance by Westminster Choir College’s DeafTones, and performances by the Rider Dance Ensemble and by Rider’s a cappella group, the Rider Vibes.

Rider’s Relay for Life has raised about $150,000 over the last three years, Galbraith said.

“Relay For Life has made a tremendous impact in its first three years and we are expecting nothing less this year,” she said.

One member of the Rider community who has been avidly raising money is sophomore Justin Baldwin, the current top fundraising individual who has reached $1,255 as of Thursday.

“I feel Relay is an important event to raise money for because funding to support cancer research is vital for the present and the future, and until a cure is found, awareness of the cause should be spread,” he said. “I also feel that it is important here at Rider because Relay For Life is the biggest event during the school year that  brings clubs and organizations together to fundraise for a good cause.”

Relay for Life began in the 1980s in Tacoma, Wash. It was started by Dr. Gordy Klatt to benefit the local chapter of the American Cancer Society. The idea has since spread across the nation, according to Relay For Life’s official website.

Galbraith said the monetary donations from Relay help fight cancer through research, advocacy, education and services.

“Every dollar raised gets us closer and closer to a cure,” Galbraith said. “Thousands and thousands are diagnosed with cancer every single day. The more we fight, the better the chance of finding a cure.”

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there are currently 12 research grants funded in New Jersey and the services provided through Relay funds include Feel Better sessions, during which specially-trained cosmetologists help the cancer patients deal with the physical effects of cancer treatment.

Galbraith said that cancer has a huge impact on people’s lives, whether they know someon that lost their battle with it, survived it or witnessed a loved one experience it.

“Rider Relay really helps bring our whole community together for a common cause,” Galbraith said.

For more information about Relay For Life, students can “like” the “Rider University Relay For Life” Facebook page or log on to to register for the event.

There will also be pre-registration held in the Cavalla Room from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday for those who wish to be fast-tracked right into the SRC gym at 6 p.m.

Additional reporting by Amar Kapadia and Rachel Stengel.

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