Looking at the numbers could never have been enough to indicate to anyone at Quinnipiac University that the first annual Relay For Life event would be enough to bring together over 1,000 students and faculty.
Eight months of hard work from event co-chairs Nick Robbins and Christina Owczarek and their committee came to fruition in the 18 hours the event took place in the Rec Center on campus.
“In the grand scheme of things 18 hours is tiny compared to the month to month time that we put into it,” Robbins said of the event.
The committee worked for the last eight months in conjunction with two American Cancer Society representatives to bring Relay For Life to campus this year. The 18-hour event brought teams of people together to recognize both caretakers and those afflicted by the disease. Through fundraising before and during the Relay for Life event, as well as keeping a team member on the track at all times, communities come together to fight back against cancer. The Quinnipiac community’s efforts ultimately resulted in more than $112,000 raised and a presentation ceremony that included President John Lahey as well as faculty members previously not expected to be in attendance.
“One of the things I said to Nick was that I need to put more faith in the students at this school,” Owczarek said. “By 9 p.m. I was floored by the amount of people that showed up for the event.”
After all 98 teams filed in and setup camp for the night the event started with the sound of bagpipes. In an emotional part of the evening hundreds of white paper bags, bearing the names of cancer survivors and people who have died of the disease, were lit from within with glow sticks. The bags, called Luminarias, were placed all along the perimeter of the Rec Center’s makeshift track. While many of the committee members feared that the majority of teams would leave following the Luminaria ceremony, they were delighted to see that this assumption was completely false.
“There was something so comfortable about looking out into the eyes of 1,100 people who were so passionate about the same thing,” Robbins said about first stepping on stage for the Opening Ceremony.
Groups of people continued to walk around the track lit up by Luminaria bags well into the early morning hours.
“As amazing as it was and as happy as it was, it’s such a bittersweet feeling to have worked so long on it and to have the event go so flawlessly,” Robbins said.
Following the Luminaria, teams walked the track through the night, symbolizing their personal choice to fight against cancer and their desire to help in any way possible.
However, for the event co-chairs and their committee, Relay seems to have come and gone quicker than they were expecting.
“To see that event so decorated and to see everybody walking with so much passion that whole time and then at 10:15 am to see the entire Rec Center cleaned up and empty. I didn’t think it was possible,” Robbins said of the transition of the event.
“It was just weird to have people that are still fighting for cancer at 9:15 and at 10:15 having the floor swept and all of the committee back in their rooms sleeping,” he continued.
“To sit back now however many hours after the closing ceremonies and get e-mails saying that we put the faith back in this school, saying that we put the spirit back in this school. Making a check out for $112,000 doesn’t seem like much compared to there being over 1,000 people showing up to an event,” Owczarek said.
Perhaps the most touching part of the event took place at the end of the Closing Ceremony when both Robbins and Owczarek shared with the crowd their reasons for Relaying.
The two co-chairs spoke of their passion for the cause and the driving force behind their determination to bring Relay For Life to Quinnipiac: the loss of a close relative.
Both Robbins and Owczarek agree that in spite of their achievements this year in bringing Relay For Life to Quinnipiac University as well as raising such an incredible amount of money, they want to do more.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to say that we raised $112,000 but I still feel like I want to raise $500 million. I just don’t feel like it’s over; I want another year,” Robbins said.