Stony Brook students pulled a different kind of all-nighter for 12 hours this past weekend. From Saturday, April 26 at 6 p.m. into Sunday, April 27, students occupied the Campus Recreation Fields for the fourth annual Relay for Life event and raised $42,741 for the American Cancer Society.
All of the relayers were part of teams, most of which represented fraternities, clubs, residential quads and athletics teams. The top earning teams were Roosevelt Quad, which collected $3,526, and the Stony Brook Swimming and Diving Team, which amassed $3,175. The team participates in honor of its late coach David Alexander.
There was scattered rainfall for most of the night, but the event went on as planned. At all times, someone was supposed to be walking a lap around the field. The motto of the event was “we walk all night because cancer never sleeps.”
“Cancer survivors have rainy days too, so let’s also fight through the rain,” Emily Swierski, senior health sciences major and co-organizer of the event, said to the crowd at the start of the opening ceremony. Most of the teams had tents in which they could take shelter when the rain came down in heavy sheets.
“We are all gathered here today for one purpose: because you or someone you know has heard the words, ‘You have cancer,’” Claire Smith, senior business management major and co-organizer of the event, said during the opening ceremony. “From this moment on, we are going to do everything in our power to celebrate, remember and fight back for them.”
Since the first Relay for Life in 1985, the event is held in 20 countries around the world. Pamela M. Parker, director of events for the American Cancer Society, said the funds raised are used for several different purposes—a major one being cancer research.
“The American Cancer Society is currently investing $3.4 million of the funds raised at events like Relay For Life right here at Stony Brook University, trying to find the next major cancer breakthrough,” Parker said.
According to Parker, the donations are also used for educational programs that “teach people about the importance of getting screened, or how to prevent cancer in the first place.” It also provides free housing, called “hope lodges,” for cancer patients if the best place for them to be treated is far away.
Fred Lupfer, a 12-year cancer survivor from Medford, shared his story with everyone in attendance. In 2002, Lupfer’s wife told him he should get a physical because he had not done so in three years. At the doctor’s office, Lupfer’s wife asked the doctor if her husband would get a PSA test, which checks the condition of the prostate. The doctor said no because Lupfer was 46 and a PSA test is typically only done after the age of 50. Lupfer’s wife insisted, so the doctor performed the test.
“Lo and behold, they tested my PSA and it came back elevated, five times more than it should be,” Lupfer said. “Three months of tests later, I found out I had prostate cancer.”
Lupfer received treatment at Stony Brook University Hospital, where an oncologist informed him he would need to have his prostate removed. Lupfer got a radical prostatectomy in October 2002 and has been cancer-free ever since.
“I was extremely fortunate that the cancer was totally contained within my prostate and that it could be removed,” Lupfer said. “But I was even more fortunate that I had my wife on my side, and that she had the insight to say ‘be tested,’ because when they operated on me, [they found] the tumor had been growing for three years and I had no idea.” Lupfer urged everyone to be tested regularly, and to be insistent if the doctor feels it is unnecessary.
After telling his story, Lupfer and all the other survivors in attendance took the first lap around the field, with everyone cheering them on. Then, every participant took a lap, and the event officially began.
Activities during the night included a pie-eating contest, tug of war and musical chairs. In a drag show called Mizz Relay, nine men, including Undergraduate Student Government President Adil Hussain and Vice President for Communications and Public Relations Mario Ferone, put on dresses and twerked for donations.
At about 8:30 p.m., USG’s Vice President of Clubs and Organizations Kerri Mahoney held an auction selling baked goods and the opportunities to run USG’s Twitter for one day, to be a judge at Roth Regatta and to be President of USG for one day. The auction added $61 to the donation total.
A traditional feature of Relay For Life events is the luminaria ceremony. Luminarias are paper lanterns which relayers create by decorating white paper bags and placing a faux candle inside each one, usually in honor of a loved one affected by cancer. The luminarias are usually placed around the perimeter of the track, but due to the rain, this year they were placed on a table under canopies. At 10 p.m. the floodlights were turned off, and everyone beheld the dozens of luminarias. Many of them read “In Loving Memory of [name].”
At 6 a.m., the total amount of money raised was announced. The roughly 30 to 40 people who stayed for the whole event were given a medal with the Relay For Life logo on one side and “All Night For The Fight” on the other. “Not only did you stay up for 12 hours, but you did it in the cold and the rain,” Parker said. Everyone took one last lap around the field as the sun rose.