GENESEO – SUNY Geneseo students raised an unprecedented $173,282.51 in Saturday’s 11th annual Relay for Life, a fundraiser that supports the American Cancer Society (ACS). In aiding the ACS, the student-run event helped not only to raise money for cancer research, but also to sustain services for cancer patients.
According to a press release from SUNY Geneseo, their Relay for Life ranks as the largest in the Rochester area for fundraising, as well as the largest in New York State. The Geneseo event is among the top 25 Relay for Life events nationally and has won several national Relay for Life Awards.
“I think the reason that we have one of the top events in the nation and why with only 5,000 undergrads we’re nationally ranked with these schools that are 10 times our size is because cancer resonates so deeply within all of us,” said Bridget Beermann, a junior from Floral Park, NY., who is the Relay for Life co-chair with Scott May, a junior from Mount Kisco, NY.
Beermann also delivered the Fight Back speech with her mother, shaved her head for Shave for the Brave and was the number one individual fundraiser for Geneseo’s Relay. “Cancer is so powerful because so many people are affected by it, and while there are so many types of cancer, it just has one main root: the fear that it instills in people, but also the power that it brings out,” she said.
That power was infused right from the start. After a performance by Ponder the Giraffe, Geneseo President Denise A. Battles delivered the keynote, reminding participants that all of their individual contributions make a difference for the fight against cancer. Battles’ keynote helped students to realize just what an impact they have in battling cancer.
This was only emphasized more by the plethora of speakers, such as the Celebrate speaker, Provost Carol S. Long, Remember Ceremony speaker, Katie Tharrett, a junior from Greece, NY., and Beermann. Each speaker gave a personal anecdote regarding a loved one battling cancer.
This year’s event theme focused on superheroes and supervillains, the superheroes representing those who have defeated their cancer and the supervillains representing cancer.
“I think that the most important thing to get out of the Remember ceremony is that cancer is such a real and scary disease for so many people,” said Tharrett. “But more impressively, cancer shows the resilience of people. It shows the strength that people really possess, and this willingness to fight is the reason that one day we’ll be able to find a cure.”
“You listen to the three ceremonies and, yeah, it always comes down to the numbers of how much was raised because that’s what the people pay attention to the most, but to actually hear people’s stories and to put faces behind the numbers where the donations are going is something that I always take away from Relay,” said president of Colleges Against Cancer, Dan Martin, a senior from Syracuse, N.Y., who coordinated the event. “It’s something others can connect with regardless of who you are.”
In addition to the speeches, there were a variety of activities and performances for the participants. This included dances by such Geneseo groups as Knightline and Geneseo Bhangra, the college’s competitive Indian dance team. The first-ever Geneseo Relay for Life lip sync battle took place at this event, too. All throughout the event, fundraising occurred in all forms. This ranged from organizations selling such things as food and raffle tickets to sororities wrapping people’s hair.
“The aura in the room and the sense of community that’s in the rink and in the gym during Relay is really amazing because it’s really hard to create that, and you can’t create that without the type of people we have here in our community at Geneseo,” said Beermann. “We, Geneseo, are known nationally as one of the best experiences for Relay. So yes, we do well with raising money, but also the experience at our event is amazing, too. You just feel it in the air…the couple of hours that you took out of your day for Relay will have a life-long impact for the people who receive the benefits from the ACS, and nothing can be better than that.”