By Cathleen Leitch
After exceeding last year’s fund-raising goal, Rider’s Relay for Life creators are trying to top their success. The senior pair, Heather Fischler, University Affairs team leader and Relay for Life event chair, and Megan Ptaszenski, team recruitment and retention leader, are “tapping into new resources” to keep the success going.
Last spring’s Relay for Life surpassed all expectations, earning $56,000 — double the amount organizers had hoped to reach. The event won the title of “Top Performing College Event in All of New Jersey,” given by the American Cancer Society (ACS) last November for the event raising the most money.
The duo claimed the title over the Eastern Division, which includes colleges in New Jersey and New York.
Relay for Life takes place across the country and was created by the ACS to raise awareness about cancer and to earn donations to find a cure. By bringing the event to Rider, Fischler wanted to start something to bring the campus together.
“I didn’t just put an event together, I created a culture,” she said.
The organization did not expect a large number of participants but accumulated almost 700. Ptaszenski admitted that she was “worried about getting people to show up,” but the student response from last year has fostered excitement for the upcoming relay.
One student found the event “very moving” and will participate again. Other students were inspired by people they knew.
“My friends did it last year and said it was a lot of fun,” said sophomore Alyssa Wakefield. “I’m really excited to participate.”
This year, the creators are raising the bar and setting higher goals. The student involvement was strong last March, but the hope is that more faculty will participate. The event is open to more than the Rider community; students’ families and friends are encouraged to attend. The monetary goal for this year is $62,000, and all donations will go to the ACS.
“Things are on track with last year,” Ptaszenski said. Purple ribbons promoting the event have been placed everywhere on campus. “There has been a surge due to the ribbons.”
The upcoming event, to be held on March 27, will be similar to the previous relay. There will be live coverage from the university radio station, 107.7 The Bronc, a DJ and four live bands. Other entertainers will include the Rider Dance Team, Fischler’s dance team the Rising Stars, and the Westminster Choir.
The ceremony will once again open with a guest speaker. The Miss Relay Pageant, an all-male event where contestants parade around in female attire, will return, and the male who raises the most money wins. A more serious event, the Luminaria ceremony, pays respect to cancer patients, past and present.
“It celebrates survivors and remembers those who lost the fight,” Ptaszenski said.
Ptaszenski got involved because her father had cancer before she was born, and Fischler, who lives with Ptaszenski, joined because both of her roommates’ fathers had cancer.
The second annual Relay for Life will not be the last of its kind, as the charity event has been written into the SGA constitution as an annual ceremony. Both Ptaszenski and Fischler are seniors, but a committee is prepared to assume command in the future.
Relay for Life is “the party [students] won’t want to miss,” Fischler said.
Students can register online with teams or organizations anytime before March 27. Online registration is $10, but the charge increases to $20 the day of the event. To register or donate, visit www.relayforlife.org/rideruniversity.
The event will be held in the Student Recreation Center on the Lawrenceville campus on March 27-28, from 4 p.m. until 8 a.m. For more information contact Heather Fischler at firstname.lastname@example.org or Megan Ptaszenski at email@example.com.