A lot has changed since I graduated Stony Brook in 2016. The Union is under construction, we finally got that pool and there’s apparently a Subway now. But a lot of the changes have been negative. Red Mango is no more, theatre and other liberal arts classes have been cut dramatically and the swim coach turned out to be a total (belly)flop. For me, one of the worst things that changed about the Brook after I graduated was the absence of Relay For Life on campus.
“Wait, Adrienne. Of course that would be your worst thing. You were involved with Relay For Life all four years!” Obviously that’s the case, but hear me out as I explain just why this is such a problem.
Relay For Life is a 12-hour event, usually held annually on college campuses, that raises money for the American Cancer Society. Researching the cure is an obvious use of the funds, but these funds also go to things like Hope Lodge, which provides a convenient place for patients and their caregivers to stay so they don’t have to travel back and forth each time they need treatment. The committee does its best to plan a seamless event that raises a lot of money and is also a lot of fun.
A friend told me that the hospital complained about St. Baldrick’s Foundation (a charity that collects hair donations and makes wigs for cancer patients) having a presence on campus because it took away from the hospital’s initiatives, and now St. Baldrick’s isn’t on campus. This angered me. I was on the Relay For Life committee for two years. I believe the hospital cancer center had all of two initiatives between those two years, and both years, it was to raise breast cancer awareness by wearing pink to a women’s basketball game. If there were other initiatives, I did not hear about them, which would mean the hospital did not promote them enough. All the other projects we collaborated with the hospital on were the Relay for Life Committee’s idea.
The main problem here is that a school known for its incredible strides in STEM is not efficiently nor effectively doing anything to promote important STEM-related and life-saving initiatives on campus. The irony astounds me. Even when I was a student, these initiatives did not receive proper attention.
Every year I was there, Relay made less and less money for the American Cancer Society (ACS). This was no accident. I found that each year, as the senior class would graduate, the campus awareness and administrative support of Relay got lower and lower.
For the first three years, we had Relay outside. Relay is usually held outdoors, even in cases of inclement weather (like the torrential rain in 2014) to remind everyone that cancer survivors have to keep going even when it’s tough. It is held overnight to remind everyone that cancer never sleeps. But unfortunately, it was located on the rec fields near the train station, and the neighbors complained, so we were told we would have Relay inside in 2016.
They gave us the Campus Recreation Center, even though we weren’t even allowed to eat in the main Relay area since they were worried we would tarnish the Rec Center’s precious gym floor. Many people were playing basketball and none of the normal Rec Center staff were there because they all went to a Yankee game, but the committee and I still did our best to make the best of it. We took turns DJ-ing and we all danced. It was meaningful and fun, and that’s exactly what Relay should be.
We didn’t make as much money as we hoped we would, but considering we still made $20,000 and people weren’t even allowed to eat in the same room as the event, we still did pretty well! We had an amazing night.
Even though Dean Barnett stopped by and told me what a great event it was, it is clear that Relay For Life is still not getting the attention nor the administrative support that it deserves on campus. There are not enough people on the committee to warrant the ACS sending a rep, which, especially after all the work the 2016 committee and I did, is pretty disheartening. And the worst part is, I know there are people who would love to be on the committee — if only they knew it existed! Shameless plug here, but being on the committee gives you something else to think about other than classes, allows you to make friends in ways you never thought you could (I was a linguistics major and suddenly friends with several more STEM majors), allows you to have more fun than you could have ever thought possible and, best of all, lets you truly make a difference in the lives of so many. It’s so fulfilling, and your heart feels so full after all the work you’ve been doing since August. Please bring Relay back to our campus, please bring back St. Baldrick’s and let those organizations unite with the hospital towards one common goal: the cure.
Adrienne Esposito is a stroke survivor and is part of Stony Brook University’s Class of 2016.