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Relay Raises Money And Awareness

For The Heights

Published: Monday, February 18, 2013

Updated: Monday, February 18, 2013 11:02

Relay Raises Money And Awareness

Emily Stansky // For The Heights

Friday night was no quiet night at the Plex. While many Boston College students went about planning another typical night out, over 1,000 students headed to the Plex to dedicate a night to the support of cancer research. Students continuously walked around the indoor track from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in memory or honor of those affected by cancer. The hours passed quickly as the endless list of planned activities took place: from knee hockey to an ice cream eating contest, a Miss Relay pageant to a viewing of Cool Runnings, performances from many of BC’s song and dance groups, the serving of a plethora of catered food and baked goods, and most importantly, multiple memorial ceremonies.

 Raising $145,000, last year’s BC Relay For Life was the number one Relay in the New England per capita division. BC managed to beat Northeastern, despite its smaller student body. “Our goal for this year is $150,000,” said Madison Aleksa, LSOE ’13, co-chair of the event, “and right now [at 9:08 p.m.] we have already reached $130,000.”
Aleksa has been the chair of the event for the past two years. After losing her father to cancer during high school, she searched for a way to cope, and Relay for Life was the answer. Aleksa managed to start the Relay for Life in her home community, and found that the active fundraising for the American Cancer Society and the feeling that she was making a difference helped her honor the memory of her father. Upon arriving at BC, she immediately got involved with the BC Relay committee, and along with the rest of the members, works year-round to fundraise and prepare for the event. “It gives you power—it’s a way to make a difference,” Aleksa said.

The event draws people of all backgrounds around a common goal: to continue the search for a cure to cancer. “You wouldn’t except so many students on campus to be dealing with cancer, but there are so many survivors and those going through treatment,” Aleksa said, while her friend Meghan Woody, A&S ’14, who lived across the hall from her freshman year and is a survivor of a recent battle with leukemia, sat next to her.

Woody entered BC as a pre-med student. As she was about to begin her sophomore year, she was diagnosed with cancer. After a yearlong battle with the disease, Woody appeared to have beaten it, but the battle wasn’t over. In June of 2011, Woody relapsed. “You think finding out you have cancer is bad,” she said. “Then you think you’ve beaten it. Then you find out it’s back and you have to do it all over again. It’s the worst day of your life.”
On her 21st birthday, she found herself in one of the weakest states a human can be—recovering from a bone marrow transplant. After excruciating doses of chemotherapy, a completely annihilated immune system, and weeks of explanations of all the ways she could die from the surgery, Woody survived her bone marrow transplant and fought off leukemia a second time.

“One of the toughest parts is coming back,” Woody, who has now been cancer-free for a year and half, said. “You spend so much time thinking about ways you could die, and then you don’t. You get back and your head is in a different place, and it’s not a place other people can relate to.”
Relay for Life is a way to bring together all the people who have in some way experienced similar situations to Woody’s. While still fighting the disease she was involved as a participant, but for the first time this year, Woody was able to be a committee member, helping to organize the event.

Stories like Woody’s were not uncommon among the participants wearing white t-shirts, the team captains dressed in green, and the survivors wearing purple. Pat Rockwell, A&S ’15, organized a team consisting of the members of BC’s men’s rugby team. Both his father and aunt had cancer, so he decided to get his teammates involved in supporting the cause. Similarly, Paul Shepter, A&S ’14, created a team consisting of the members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity in honor of his mother Mary, who is currently fighting leukemia.

The night consisted of many speakers such as Pat Spain, from the Animal Planet show Beast Hunter, who is a survivor of colon cancer, a talk by Maggie Goodman, BC ’12, in honor of John Cawthorne, former dean of the Lynch school who lost his battle with cancer this summer, and many others, each with his or her own incredible story.

“Motivating people isn’t hard, everyone can connect. The hardest part of organizing Relay for Life on campus is getting the money,” Aleksa said. “Since everyone is on a college budget, we know it is hard for anyone to donate.” Fundraising for this event will continue even though this year’s Relay has passed. Those interested can get more information or give a donation by visiting www.relayforlife.org and selecting the BC location.

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