By Ellen Cicchitti
On Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22 Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) ran DeSales’ 10th annual Relay for Life. It started at 4 p.m. with registration and ended Saturday morning around 10 a.m. with the closing ceremonies.
Friday evening for the Survivor Ceremony, Dan Denkovic, an American Cancer Society (ACS) coordinator and former TV/film student, shared his story with cancer after trying to block it out for so many years. His mother was diagnosed with melanoma and at age 11 he remembered seeing the fear in his family’s eyes. At age 12, he was told that his mom wasn’t going to make it.
Before concluding, he asked for the audience to feel accomplished in what they do, and he gave one piece of advice: “Remember who you are and what you’re doing and how it makes you happy.”
The following 18 hours would be a simulation of the journey of cancer patients. Together, participants and survivors would unite as one for the survivors’ lap.
The theme, “Hats Off for Hope,” had the McShea Student Union Center covered in posters and decorations related to Dr. Seuss’s famous works. Shades of purple, in honor of the victims of cancer, also covered the area around the center.
Different clubs and teams were stationed around the student center and each table had a variety of set-ups. Gaming Society set up coffee and pancakes in preparation for the late night, while the Exercise is Medicine club had Goldfish Pong in the theme of “One Fish, Two Fish.” Team Bonnie sold cake pops and teams in the McShea lounge area had raffles, face-painting and photo booths.
To add to the fun, Aaron Carter—best known as the former pre-teen singer who sang “I Want Candy” back in 2000—performed outside on the McShea Mall. He was wild, energetic and got the crowd pumped and excited. He performed different covers of songs and his style was a surprising mix of rap and EDM.
Meanwhile inside the student center, CAC advocacy chair Brynnlee Pavlovich shared her thoughts on creating the event.
“All the stress and hard work pays off in the end,” she said. “Getting people to have an understanding of what we do—it’s the most important part for me.”
Before the silent walk and the Luminaria ceremony, HR employee Holly Knauss shared her experiences with her husband’s lung cancer. He passed away six years ago, and she recounted every step she took with him, from when he did chemo to when she saw the “priceless” look of pure joy on his face when his old motorcycle and volunteer firefighter friends took him out for one final ride.
“My story is not to make anyone feel bad,” she told the audience. “Think of your ‘why,’ and do everything you can to live for your last day.”
Her touching words had quite a few listeners in tears. Soon after, it was time for the silent walk.
“It’s kind of cool to see McShea so dark and see people take a lap together with their glow-sticks,” said participant Sydney Mursko.
The walk was uniting, but it was also layered with a haunting mood. Only the breathing and soft sobs of walkers could be heard, and the light from the sticks stood out warmly against the cold dark night. It was a way to reflect without any kind of communication. For this, silence was all that was needed.
But the silent sorrow quickly dispersed with the Shave to Save event, where multiple students volunteered to have their heads shaved or hair cut in honor of cancer patients.
Kara Churylo, who helped run the event, said, “It’s a great cause. It brings people together and it shows that we’re a community.”
Nick Luchko also pumped up the crowd while asking for donations, which added to the money being raised.
A few hours of dancing came next with the Irish dance club performing in tune with upbeat rhythms and the dance team making moves in the middle of McShea. Karaoke and yoga followed into the early morning.
The CAC members were recognized as well, and it was announced that Aaron Carter donated 100 percent of the money he had sold from his merchandise.
“I thought [Relay for Life] was a lot of fun. It’s such a good cause and I know I’m going to come back next year,” said participant Isabel Fernandez.
The proceeds raised will go to the ACS. Pavlovich plans to raise more money by the end of the semester, starting with the Inside Scoop De-Stressor Fundraiser at the beginning of finals week on May 8. So far, $20,156 was raised and she plans to keep the amount growing until the fundraiser ends Aug. 30.