A Week After Jasper Days, Relay for Life Shines



Exactly one week after Jasper Days, students gathered once again on the Quad at noon on a Saturday, but this time their goal was to save lives.

Students participate in a pie-eating contest to raise money for cancer research. Photo by Stephanie Bramante.
Students participate in a pie-eating contest to raise money for cancer research. Photo by Stephanie Bramante.

Manhattan College’s Relay For Life with the American Cancer Society group has been working since August to put together its annual event held on May 3 to help end the fight with cancer. Students wearing blue and purple “Committee” t-shirts lead the way for MC students who came out to have a good time while donating to a charitable cause.

The students on the Relay For Life committee ran activities throughout the day to help raise money to find the cure for a disease that affects millions of people, many of whom students know and love.

Dr. Natalia Boliari, economics professor and faculty advisor to the group assisted Committee Co-Chairs Stephanie Bramante and Athina Nicolaou in working with their committee to make this day possible. The juniors also work hand in hand with their American Cancer Society staff partner Meagan Ryerson.

Ryerson is a new addition to the committee this year. “She’s more open to new ideas” Bramante said. “She’s new to MC and the American Cancer Society and she helped us to start from the bottom up to create what I would call our “first real relay.”

Bramante has been involved with the American Cancer Society for the past 13 years and has been the co-chair of the MC committee for two. Bramante is also on her community committee for the area of Bayridge in her home of Brooklyn, New York, where they hold a similar event for the entire neighborhood.

Nicolaou has been working with Relay For Life since high school and has worked with Bramante for the past three years at MC to make events like May 3 possible.

Because we had a new advisor, we wanted this year to be different” Bramante said.

Last year, out event was in Draddy, and it was a longer event, from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.,” Nicolaou said. “This year we did everything on our own and we decided it would be on the quad. We worked directly with administration and we wouldn’t have been able to without so much help from Jen Edwards.”

This year’s theme for the event was Candyland because “a world without cancer would be so sweet” Nicolaou said.

Registration for the event began at 11:30 a.m. for $20 per student. Over 300 people attended the event and thousands of dollars were raised with the help of friends and family and people from the Riverdale community.

Up until thus point, the Manhattan College chapter of Relay For Life has raised around $13,000 for their Relay For Life campaign and the donations “are open until August” Bramante said. “We are goaled to raise $16,000, and I really think we can. We are goaled by what we make the year before. We set our own goals, so we have to be very realistic.”

Students on the committee asked for donations starting months before the event, raising money and receiving gifts from local business. Broadway Joes and Goodfellas both donated two pies each and Panera Bread and Gourmet Dining also gave food for the committee to have available throughout the event. Staples and Stop and Shop donated water to the group. Planet Wings, Jake’s Steakhouse, and Generico’s all donated gift certificates to be raffled off throughout the day. Jasper Deli donated funds to the cause, and Davy Cuts donated vouchers for free haircuts.

Jerry the Barber was available to buzz students’ heads if they were able to raise $100 for the cause. Billy Vas was one such student who had his head shaved for the cause. “In under five minutes people had donated enough for Billy to get his head buzzed” Nicolaou said.

Along with the help of the committee and the students, Relay For Life for Manhattan College 2014 was made up of 51 teams from MC who, along with more than 237 participants donated over $10, 353 prior to the event.

The event started off with an opening ceremony at noon led by Bramante and Nicolaou who thanked everyone for making it to the event and told everyone to get ready to have a good time.

While the weather stayed sunny, the event was crowded. Alexis Martinez, a committee member, said “I can’t believe we had such a great turn out. Today is so much better than Jasper Days. Everyone I’ve spoken to has told me how much they love this event.”

The event featured a rock wall, a dunk tank which Martinez participated in along with other students, and a cotton candy machine all in the earlier hours of the afternoon.

There was also a pie throwing auction where students could bid to have the chance to push a whipped cream pie in one of their fellow friends’ faces, all for the sake of finding the cure.

The rain started at around 3:00p.m. The crowd thinned as the weather got worst, but when the sun came back around 4:00 p.m. more students came back to the Quad.

With the sun shining once again, committee members lead activities like relay races on the grass, including a three legged race and an egg spoon race, followed by water balloon fight. There was also a tie-dye station open on the Quad along with other areas to donate while people enjoyed the weather and the up-beat spirit of the event.

Later in the afternoon, Grace Hoffman, a junior whose father passed away one year ago from cancer, spoke about her work as his caregiver along with the rest of her family who also attended the event. Hoffman has been a committee member along with Bramante and Nicolaou since her freshman year and her work, like many of the committee members, became personal.

Events for Relay For Life always include participants walking laps around the event space in order to keep the memory of their loved ones in mind.

The idea behind the lapping of the Quad is that “cancer doesn’t stop so neither will we” Nicolaou said. Nicolaou added that “cancer also goes on through the rain, and so did we.”

There was always someone lapping the Quad during the entire event” Bramante said, “but some of my favorite laps were our fun laps.” The fun laps consisted of walking to the YMCA and the Macarena, among other crown-favorites.

Our advisor was constantly telling us how impressed she was with us. She made many comparisons to larger schools and told us that we did really well” Bramante said.

Our head of relay for life of all the boroughs came to our event today and was in awe. Ben, the leader of all of the Relay For Life groups in the entire city, told us we had an amazing turnout and that we seemed really promising” Bramante said.

There were many smaller events as well. There was a frozen t-shirt contest where “you get a t-shirt tied in a knot and frozen solid, crack it open, wear it, run around the quad, first person back wins,” Nicolaou said.

We also had people race to see who could get to the bottom of a whipped cream filled pie tin to reach the bubblegum and make a bubble with it first. All of these events are supposed to make people happy while they attempt to end a disease that takes away this kind of happiness” Bramante said.

At around 7:00 p.m., the students lead the Luminaria Ceremony, which is “all about those we wish to honor or those we have lost” Nicolaou said. Each person who went to the Luminaria booth during the event could have decorated a bag that had the name of a love one on it. A small candle was then placed into each one of these bags which were situated around the Quad. Participants then took a silent lap around the Quad on the edge of the grass to honor those loved ones.

After this silent lap, Bramante led a concluding “Fight Back” speech that she used to “rev everyone up again. I want to help people understand that we don’t want to have this kinda of lap happen again because of cancer. I want our kids to not know what cancer is.”

The top donating team was the Relay Committee made up of over 45 students who donated $1, 475 as of May 3.

In regards to looking towards next year, Bramante said “I believe today and tonight was a success. We put so much work into the event this year and I am so proud of what we were able to accomplish this far. I loved the atmosphere, and I loved every minute of this Relay. I really feel like it was our Relay this year.”

The amount of people who came up to us saying “this is amazing” made us feel so good, we were so happy” Nicolaou said.

The group looks forward to working together again next year and hope to have a very similar “but even better Relay,” Bramante said.