By Sean Leonard
From Nov. 9 to Nov. 14, Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) hosted its annual Relay for Life event, but this year the event looked differently than years past.
Rather than a day-long event in the rec center, CAC hosted the event virtually over the course of a week in order to accommodate health and safety guidelines. During each day the event took place, CAC posted activities and challenges on their Facebook and Instagram @cac_at_tcnj, where students could participate, donate and win prizes.
Four teams signed up for Relay of Life this year, including CAC, Sigma Kappa Sorority, Circle K International and Delta Zeta Sorority.
In total, $3,289.15 was raised for the American Cancer Society (ACS). Senior public health major Kara Pierro is the CAC co-president and said the event raised much less than in previous years, but lower participation was expected because of the virtual format and unprecedented circumstances.
“Fundraising this year was way different because in years past, our main source of fundraising would happen at the actual relay in the rec center. We had different events that would cost money, and it adds up really quickly,” Pierro said.
According to Pierro, the CAC e-board, consisting of 11 members, brainstormed to come up with the ideas for the virtual activities, and some included walking the 1.74 mile loop around the College, Disney trivia Kahoot and penny wars.
Senior technology and engineering education major/ CAC co-president Jessica King said Relay usually has one theme for the night, but this year they took advantage of the week-long format and gave each day its own theme.
Sophomore special education and i-STEM major Meghan Ring is the CAC co-team development chair, and she said planning the activities required a lot of teamwork. She said that Penny Wars was her favorite event this year.
“This event really seemed to draw people in not only because the money was going toward a great cause, but also they got to see someone get pied in the face, and that person just so happened to be me,” Ring said.
According to Ring, although this year’s Relay lacked the typical sense of community, the virtual format allowed a wider variety of people to contribute. Similarly, Pierro also said that being able to spread out the events across an entire week was beneficial for reflecting on the ACS mission.
“With the heavy reliance on social media and other virtual platforms, we were able to connect with family members, friends and other people that otherwise may not have been able to contribute or participate in this event,” Ring said.
Pierro said CAC has a cancer survivor speak at the Relay for Life event every year. She said that despite the event shifting to online, the guest speaker was an aspect the group wanted to keep.
CAC posted a video on Instagram of cancer survivor Suzy Kutcher telling her story. Kutcher was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer on July 15, 2019 and said she was especially grateful for her daughters who supported her throughout the entire journey and accompanied her at treatment sessions.
“They never left my side. We cried together and we laughed together, and we prayed a lot,” Kutcher said. “The most amazing thing was the family and friends that just reached out to me through Facebook (and) through letters.”
Insurance did not cover Kutcher’s radiation treatments and she was out of work because of her condition, so her best friend started a GoFundMe page that raised twenty-thousand dollars for Kutcher’s medical bills.
“I know how it felt when I was down at my lowest, and they brought me up and they supported me, and I’ll never forget that as long as I live. That was one of the biggest lessons that I felt. I felt it in my heart,” Kutcher said.
Many Relay for Life participants are personally impacted by cancer. Ring said her mother, grandmother and aunt are all thyroid cancer survivors, and she has many other friends and family directly affected by the disease. Ring said her motivation is to honor her father who passed away in 2003 from a Desmoplastic Small Cell Round Tumor.
“He was so strong and never let his diagnosis get the best of him, his doctors called him Superman. In participating in Relay, I hope to demonstrate this same strength and perseverance. I will continue to raise money and awareness with the hopes that one day we will find a cure for this disease,” said Ring.