Relay for Life: Rowan students look to raise $50,000 to fight cancer

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Through Relay for Life, 700 Rowan students are looking to raise a whopping $50,000 for the American Cancer Society.
The silence, they say, speaks volumes.

"You've never heard hundreds of college students be so quiet," Mary Pinter says of the silent lap that Rowan University students traditionally do each spring during Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

"It really takes you back to why you're there. You reflect on the people you've lost."

"When it's absolutely silent on that field, it hits you," Patty Bodak says. "You can just see that everyone is affected by cancer."

For the second straight year, Pinter and Bodak, both seniors, are co-chairing Rowan's Relay for Life event, which runs April 8-9. Altogether, 700 Rowan students are expected to converge on the University's intramural field overnight, where they'll spend 12 consecutive hours on the track raising funds to fight cancer. Students compete in teams to raise funds--and gain bragging rights among the student body--for their efforts.

This year's fundraising goal is $43,000. But if students can reach $50,000, Rowan Relay will have raised $250,000 in the past seven years--a truly phenomenal accomplishment. Last year, Relay raised $38,000.

"It's crazy what people can do when we all come together for a common cause," Pinter says. "A quarter of a million dollars...that would be so awesome."

"That's amazing...right?!" Bodak adds, admittedly in awe about the possibility of the fundraising total.

Relay for Life will begin with the emotional Survivors Lap celebration, during which cancer survivors take a lap around the track to emotional applause from the crowd.

"That's probably one of the greatest feelings in the world," says Bodak. "We get to celebrate their life."

As the evening turns dark, students will take a silent lap during the Luminaria Ceremony. Luminaria candles, signifying the loss of a loved one to cancer, will line the field as the students walk the track--a touching tribute to precious lives lost.

In between, student participants, who pitch tents for the event, will enjoy silly games and other activities designed to keep them engaged--and inspired--as they circle the track, according to Rowan sophomore Julia England of Tabernacle, who will take over as Relay co-chair next year.

A midnight scavenger hunt, three live bands, a human knot activity, a water balloon toss and the ever-popular "Miss Relay" competition will keep students laughing--and moving--she says.

During "Miss Relay," men in the crowd dress up like women and perform a talent with a sole purpose of raising as much money as possible. There's also zumba--and yoga...at 5 a.m. Those activities only scratch the surface of what is offered during relay.

"We offer students so much to do," England says.

The Relay theme this year pays tribute to the music and styles of the 1980s.

"We'll have a ‘Walk-like-an-Egyptian' lap and we'll wear our sunglasses at night," England says, referencing popular tunes from the period.

"Everybody gets into the spirit of it," says Bodak, noting last year's event was shortened due to bad weather. "Last year, we had a guy who kept running in the rain. He ran a marathon."

Pinter and Bodak, who are roommates, are accomplished students who have made their marks on Rowan through their scholarship, research and involvement. But they both say none of those accomplishments eclipse their involvement with Relay for Life.

"Relay is probably our biggest accomplishment. All the hard work, all the connections you have to make...it has such an impact on the Rowan community," says Bodak. "Everybody knows Relay. It's something we truly, truly believe in."

Bodak, a biological science and secondary education major from Ocean Township, is planning a career in teaching. At Rowan, Bodak was involved with the Thomas N. Bantivoglio Honors Concentration, served as the student building manager for the Chamberlain Student Center, and even traveled to Croatia, where she presented her research.

Pinter, a biological science major from Florence, has done research on a developmental biology project in the lab with Professor Alison Krufka for three years. Bound for graduate school and ultimately a doctorate in cellular-based biology, Pinter has presented her research before the Mid Atlantic Regional Developmental Biology Conference at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and the American Society of Cell Biology in Philadelphia.

Researching cancer someday "would be awesome," Pinter says, but for now, the co-chairs have a more immediate goal. If Rowan Relay students can hit that $50,000 mark, Andrew Perrone, assistant director of Service Learning, Volunteerism, and Community Engagement, has vowed to dye his hair purple--the official color of Relay for Life--for Commencement.

"That's very important to us--very, very important," Pinter laughs.

"I want Andrew Perrone with purple hair at my graduation," Bodak says with confidence.

Perrone is prepared. He already has a purple Commencement tie to match his hair.

To support Rowan's Relay for Life, visit www.relayforlife.org/rowanuniversitynj.

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