Relaying for hope

Quinnipiac’s annual Relay for Life was a chance for students, staff and family to unite against cancer

By on September 25, 2019

Hope, survivors and Quinnipiac University students lined the Quad on Sunday, Sept. 22, for the annual Relay for Life event.

“I do it for [my family] and more tomorrows, because I don’t think any family should suffer the loss of cancer,” Ryan Chait, a senior criminal justice and sociology double major, said.

Starting at 11 a.m., the Quad was filled with food trucks, activity tables and inflatables to raise money and awareness for the fight of cancer and to advance cancer research.

The event kicked off with a performance by The Legends, one of Quinnipiac’s a capella groups. Their singing was followed by heartfelt speeches from survivors, committee members, family members and more. Later in the day, a haircutting ceremony took place in efforts to create wigs for cancer patients.

The first lap was dedicated to Leyanda DaSilva, a Quinnipiac dining hall employee who passed away last January from stage four breast cancer.

“Leyanda had a contagious smile and laugh, was a light to everyone she met. She was an amazing mother, an incredible spirit. Her strength was seen by all, and motivated everyone around her,” Linda White, a co-worker of DaSilva, said.

Student organizers had high expectations for the walk. Many students previously knew about Relay for Life and were eager to get involved once starting college. Between the warm weather and a great cause, students were excited for the day and were expecting a large turnout.

Emily DiSalvo | The Quinnipiac Chronicle
“It’s something with obviously an amazing message. So I at least wanted to do a little bit of helping out to be a part of it,” said Nicole Horn, a freshman in the entry-level master’s physician assistant program, who was volunteering at the event.

Many Quinnipiac University students attended Relay for Life because of a program requirement– the honors program being the most popular. But for many students, it ran far deeper than just that.

“My mom had cancer and so did my aunt and other members of my family, so it’s important to me that way,” Jaclyn Barry, a senior occupational therapy major, said. “We lost members of the honors program to cancer in years past so it’s just kind of for all of us.”  

Sarah Cowden, a sophomore theater and history double major in the MAT program, attended Relay for Life with the honors program. But unlike many of the other participants, she wasn’t wearing a navy blue honors shirt. She wore a sweatshirt with the Relay for Life logo and shared that this event was more than just a program requirement for her.

“I feel it’s great for the Quinnipiac community to come together and focus on such an important event, and I hope over time we continue to grow this event,” Cowden said.

Chait’s family has also been affected by cancer which is part of what motivated him to get involved in the walk.

“My grandpa died of cancer and two of my cousins died from cancer, and now my other grandfather is currently battling cancer,” Chait said.

Many students shared that cancer is something that is universal to everyone, as most participants had a personal connection to someone who battled cancer. This is especially true for one of the Relay for Life organizers, Caylee Carmody, a junior biomedical science major.

“I relay for my mom who is a survivor, we just did the survivor lap together and my grandmother recently passed away from cancer so I did it for them,” Carmody said.

Some students said funding cancer research and helping cancer patients is related to their career plans.

“As a nursing major, I may come in contact with patients in the future that are battling cancer, so to help find a cure for that would be kind of cool,” Charles Sharkey, junior nursing major and Relay for Life public relations chair, said.

The event ended with the Luminaria lap. Students circled the Quad lined with illuminated bags, each one honoring loved ones who have overcome cancer, are battling cancer or who have passed away from cancer. 

Although they did not reach their goal of raising $30,000, Quinnipiac students raised $26,208.01 for the American Cancer Society.

“We have an advantage over cancer because of the generosity of people like you [people who want to help find a cure],” Carmody said. “You have courage, hope, empathy and determination, and together we can make an impact to save lives.”

Reporting by Samantha Simon and Fiona Doull

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