To Conquer Cancer

To Conquer Cancer

Rowan community runs laps, cuts hair and raises money to beat cancer.

For cancer, sophomore Ethan Bobo got a public head shaving at the hands of a now healthy, 13-year-old who, just two years ago, had a golf-ball sized tumor at the base of his brain.

For cancer, junior Julia England ignored her own painful medical condition and—from the seat of a red, motorized wheelchair—co-chaired a 12-hour Relay for Life event involving 860 Rowan University students.

Their experiences were different, but their inspiration—conquering cancer—was the same. Bobo and England were just two of hundreds of Rowan students, faculty, professional staff members, alumni—and even the University’s interim president—who joined together in March to raise big money for the fight against cancer.

During the course of just five days, the Rowan community held St. Baldrick’s Day and Relay for Life, two spirited, inspiring events that raised $75,000 combined for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and the American Cancer Society.

St. Baldrick’s Day

The fundraising week kicked off with St. Baldrick’s Day on March 27 as 35 hirsute volunteers—including three women—publicly shaved their heads in the Chamberlain Student Center in an event presented by Rowan’s Student University Programmers (SUP). Altogether, students raised more than $17,100 for St. Baldrick’s, which supports pediatric cancer research. Bobo and student Matt Soslow, direct of special events for SUP, were the event organizers.

During an evening chock full of funny, touching moments, Bobo had his head shaved ceremoniously by Jeffrey DeVico, 13, of Cape May Courthouse, a brain cancer survivor. The standing-room-only crowd cheered as DeVico masterfully wielded the electric razor, sending Bobo’s brown, curly hair to the floor.

“This shows me that everybody is caring,” DeVico, who lost his hair to chemotherapy for two years, said of the event. While he may consider attending Rowan, he said, he has no intention of ever shaving his head for St. Baldrick’s Day. He’s done with being bald, he said.

Relay for Life

Altogether, 860 students raised more than $58,000 for the American Cancer Society at the eighth annual Relay for Life event, held in Rowan’s Rec Center and on the track at Coach Richard Wackar Stadium on March 30-31.

Using the theme “Superheroes,” the event began with an emotional “Survivors’ Walk” as 15 cancer survivors paraded through the Rec Center amid rousing cheers from Rowan students.

Relay, which began at 6 p.m., ended the following day at 6:30 a.m. as all participants enjoyed an emotional “victory walk.” In between, students walked the track and participated in silly games designed to keep them engaged, moving and awake.
At midnight, a touching luminaria ceremony, held in silence, paid tribute to students’ family members and friends who have been lost to cancer.

Rowan Interim President Ali Houshmand’s support of Relay inspired students, faculty and staff, England said. Along with his wife, Farah, Houshmand walked the Relay track for more than three hours, contributed $900 from his own pocket through his “torch challenge” to students, and raised more than $3,000 through his own team Relay for Life team, Houshmand’s Heroes.

The “torch challenge” spurred Relay participants to complete 90 laps around the Wackar Stadium track in three hours. A gaggle of volunteers, many of them Rowan athletes, met the challenge.

The Rowan torch is the University’s symbol of knowledge. But during Relay for Life, it symbolized something more, England said.

“It symbolized hope for cancer survivors,” she said.

“We were inspired to see that our president was so motivated to join us,” said England, co-chair of Relay with fellow junior Sami Musumeci, a biological science major with an Honors concentration.  “He definitely was a motivator for us as students.”

England doesn’t need a whole lot of motivation. Despite being diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy last year, a condition that causes terrible nerve pain, she continued her work with relay, co-directing activities from her power wheelchair. A committee of 40 dedicated students organized Relay.

“Every person who comes to Relay has their own reason for being there,” England said. “My work with Relay distracts me from my pain. The work is so worth it.”

“Cancer,” Musumeci said simply, “impacts everyone.”

Raising more funds

Continuing in the cancer fundraising spirit, Rowan will host its third annual run/walk-a-thon Saturday, April 21 to battle breast cancer.

All monies raised from the four-mile trek around campus will benefit local affiliates of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation.

“The most important thing for women to do is get regular screenings and know what’s normal for them,” said Kristen diNovi, Director of the Center for Academic Advising and Exploration in Savitz Hall and, herself, a breast cancer survivor.

Experts say the best way to avoid cancer is to stay healthy and be proactive: don’t use tobacco; enjoy a healthy, low-fat diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables; maintain a healthy weight; exercise; avoid overexposure to sun; get immunized against Hepatitis B and HPV; avoid risky behaviors; and take early detection seriously.

Registration for the run/walk is from 9-9:45 a.m. at the Rec Center. The run begins at 10 and the walk around campus at 10:15. Pre-registration for individuals is $25 ($30 the day-of) and $15 for team with a minimum of four ($20 the day-of). Pre-registration may be completed at the Rec Center desk on campus.

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