Relay for Life raises donations and awareness

Geneseo's Relay for Life received a show of support in the form of 956 people who raised a collective $65,900 for the American Cancer Society as of Sunday. An additional $3,000 in donations is expected to arrive in the next week.

The event, held in Kuhl Gym, rocked an outer space theme in accordance with the event's tagline: "Blasting cancer out of this world." Decorations ranging from asteroids to aliens adorned the gym.

More outstanding was the atmosphere of hope and remembrance that filled the room. Participants included student volunteers from all sectors of the campus community including members of the Geneseo branch of Colleges Against Cancer. "To have almost 1,000 of our peers gathered in one place, rallying against this awful disease is very motivating and rewarding," said junior Kaelyn Madden, CAC's Relay for Life chair. "The support of our Geneseo community astounded me."

Three themes pervaded the twelve-hour event: Celebrate, Remember, and Fight Back. Each theme was brought to life with a ceremony.

The Celebrate Ceremony was held first. Donna Berry, winner of the Oncology Nursing Society's 2011 Distinguished Researcher Award, was the night's keynote speaker. She shared her experience as a nurse and researcher and told those present to "be a friend" to someone with cancer.

After Berry finished, cancer survivor Joshua Goodling from Atlanta, Ga. shared his story of being diagnosed with cancer at four years old and being told he had only a week to live. Forty years later, he said, "It's been a long week."

"My favorite part of Relay is the Remembrance Ceremony," said junior Sarah Cantatore, CAC president. "Even with people crying, the reason why everyone is here is written on their faces."

Cantatore, a survivor of skin cancer, said she was happy to give her time to the preparation of the event. "I've been a participant, an organizer, and a survivor," she said.

The Remember Ceremony featured Matt Weippert, father of Sarah Grace Weippert. Sarah died of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of twelve after a nine-month battle with the disease. Weippert said his daughter, who would have turned 21 this year, provides a constant reason for him and his wife to help families of children with cancer by providing support and funding.

"Sarah was our inspiration and our role model on how to deal with this disease," Weippert said. "We dream of a day when childhood cancer is no more."

The ceremony continued with a slideshow of cancer victims. As it ended, volunteers remembered their family and friends afflicted by cancer and lit glowsticks in the dark gym to signify why they relay.

The Fight Back ceremony was held at 1:30 a.m. The speaker for this ceremony was junior Jesse Goldberg, who spoke about his girlfriend Cantatore's and his cousin's experiences with cancer. He closed his remarks by highlighting the "ways that ACS helps real people" with money raised at events like Relay.

Other cancer-related foundations were present as well.

"One thing I always like about Relay is the different vendors who show up," said senior Liana Clemente, team captain of the Hot Tub Dolphins team. "I like being exposed to different foundations, and small ones."

Artistic performers included Geneseo Bhangra, Knightline, G-Steppas, Lady Grey, The (Job) Hunters, the Slippery Grip Groove, Tinted Image, The Love Handles and LFSflOw.

"It's cool how so many people come together to make a change," said junior and CAC secretary Nicholas Salamone. "Everyone has a different story but they're all connected by this terrible disease."

Donations can be made at "This year's Relay was rewarding and demonstrates the commitment to activism and outlook of civic engagement within our community," Madden said. "The night was an emotional experience. I am grateful to everyone who made it possible."

Relay for Life is a national fundraising effort that started in 1985. The event is held in communities across the country and has raised over $3 billion since its inception.